Hotel managers and workers in Antalya called on Israelis this week not to cancel their vacations at the Turkish resorts, despite the rise in anti-Israeli sentiments that have swept the country following Israel's Gaza operation.
"There are no security problems here and we have no connection to the political issues," said Mr. Erdogan of the popular Spice Hotel. "You are welcome here anytime. As far as we're concerned nothing has changed… Antalya is a safe place and Israelis are as welcome here as any other guest.
"We really miss the Israelis, you have nothing to fear from," he added.
Responding to reports that Israeli tourists plan to boycott Turkish destinations, several resort managers called on Israelis Sunday to reconsider their decision. "The years-long relations between us and Israel must not end in one day, and certainly not over political statements," said the manager of the Limak Limra Hotel in Antalya.
Limak Limra Hotel in Antalya (Photo: Avi Cohen)
"We are not at war with Israel and we have been working together for so many years. Leave politics aside… what you see on television and hear on the news isn't the reality here," he stated.
Israelis expected to return by summertime
Israelis make up only 5% of tourism to Antalya but unlike European tourists – who usually vacation during the summer, Israelis visit the region all year-round, and therefore their absence is especially felt in wintertime.
All the travel agents we spoke to on Sunday said that the state of vacation booking to Turkey has never been so bad, even at times of earthquakes or terror attacks. According to one agency's director, last minute deals and price reductions did not help change the situation.
However, he predicted that come summer Israelis will once again flock to Antalya, because "as the hotel workers in Turkey said, tourism and politics don't go hand in hand."
Meanwhile, Arkia International's Deputy CEO David Machlev sounded more optimistic. "I believe that by June Israelis will return to Antalya and we will reach about 80% of the numbers we saw during the same season last year.
"There are two reasons for this: One is that there is no substitute for the clubs in Antalya, especially when it comes to families. The second reason is that tourism from Russia to Turkey is dropping due to the financial crisis that has hit Russia hard, and therefore prices in the coming summer will be substantially cheaper and more attractive," he concluded.