No longer the favorite? Antalya resort (archives)
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Gaza op strains financial ties with Turkey

Tensions between Jerusalem, Ankara translate into slump in outgoing tourism industry, strenuous industrial relations

The recent tension between Jerusalem and Ankara, brought about by the Israeli offensive in Gaza, is beginning to take a financial toll on what was once a prolific relationship.


Various travel agencies have reported a 70% drop in the number of vacation packages sold to Turkish destinations. Once one of the Israeli tourist favorite vacations spots, Antalya has now been "left for dead"; although some in the industry prefer to see the situation is a passing winter trend.


Tourism industry official said Wednesday that the Israeli tourism to Turkey is likely to hit a slump in the immediate run, but in the long run it is more than likely to pick up. "It things remain quiet, the Israelis will go back to Turkey, it's a very attractive destination."


A Foreign Ministry official gave a more caution projection: "The tourism industry is hard to predict, especially now, at winter time. We don't know what the spring and summer may bring. Turkish tourism official who have contacted us over the last few day practically begged for the Israelis not to shun Turkey, especially Antalya. They said they did not deserve to be boycotted because of their prime minister's statements."


Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently stated that Israel should be barred for the UN over its Gaza campaign. His remarks sparked rage in the Israeli public; even promoting some Israeli members of Facebook to form a "Ban Turkey" group. More than 1,500 people have joined it so far; and a dozen similar groups have sprouted both in Facebook and in other social networks.


'War tainted relations'

Israel's industrial ties with Turkey spanned $3.4 billion in 2008 – a 23% increase from 2007 – with exports to Ankara coming to $1.6 billion and imports to $1.8 billion.


Israel's major export to Turkey is chemicals, followed by metals, machinery and electrical equipment; making Turkey Israel's eight biggest commercial partner.


Ari Malmud, CEO of Hogla-Kimberly's Turkish operation told Yedioth Ahronoth that "the company's customer service department has been getting calls inquiring whether we were a Jewish company or an Israeli firm."


Another importer of Turkish consumer goods said that "it seems like the Muslim merchants in Turkey are trying to make things difficult and they're severing ties with their local Jewish contacts.


"Everyone is laying low for a while. I hope that at the end of the day, finances can prevail over politics."


Doron Avrahami, Israel's commercial attaché in Turkey said that "since the ceasefire only recently took effect, it is still too early to assess whether any permanent damage has been done to the commercial relationship between the two countries.


"We do hope everything will get back to normal, but the Gaza offensive has left a 'bad taste' here."


Navit Zomer, Udi Ezion, Itamar Eichner, Arie Egozi and Itay Smuskowitz contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 01.22.09, 08:10
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