Turkey’s policies discourage Western visitors

Turkey’s tourism sector has always been prone to crisis, but since 2015 the sector has taken a knock due to terror attacks and foreign policy disputes. 

The tourism sector’s figures demonstrated a slow recovery in 2017 following Turkey's rapprochement with Russia. However, the figures also show that troubling events in recent years, combined with anti-Western sentiments expressed by the country's leadership, are discouraging people in the West from visiting Turkey.

Moreover, personal stories also indicate that Turkey is not only losing tourists, but also friends in the West.

“Erdogan’s rightward turn on domestic policies and his rants against the United States, particularly its refusal to hand over controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen and its support of the Kurds in Syria, are unnerving to those thinking about visiting Turkey,” wrote columnist Tom Regan for The Arab Weekly on Sunday.

Regan visited Turkey for the first time 26 years ago and his love affair with the country began the moment his plane landed in Istanbul. His son also spent a part of his gap year in Istanbul several years ago.

“I became a sort of an unofficial tourism ambassador for the country,” said Regan:

“I constantly told friends who were terrified at the thought of travel in the Middle East that things were different in Turkey. That it was a much friendlier country and headed in a more democratic direction”.

But for Regan, things in Turkey have completely changed.

Regan noted his concern that the American Embassy in Ankara was shut down earlier this month due to a terror alert, and that the Embassy had warned visitors from the U.S. to be careful and avoid large crowds. He also said that he finds Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s domestic policies and anti-U.S. rhetoric troubling. 

“The Turkey of today is not the Turkey of even five years ago,” said Regan, remembering bitterly the excitement of his friends when Turkey’s now president Erdoğan was elected for the first time as prime minister in 2003.

"Many of those friends who were so excited at first have left the country and some of them have been arrested in Erdogan’s paranoid spasms of revenge against anyone who dares speak against him, regardless of where they come from in Turkish society.” he added.

Regan concluded that he could no longer sing the praises of Turkey to his friends or tell them that it is safe for Americans to travel in the country, because he no longer believes that it is.