The Turkish Embassy's culture and information counselor believes Israelis will return to Antalya's "all-inclusive" clubs as early as next Passover.
"The conflict between Israel and Turkey halted tourism, but that's only temporary. We mustn't stop the ties between the two countries and I am optimistic and believe that we will return to normal within two-three months," Hasan Saritepeci said in an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth.
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He added that there was no reason two countries which have shared tight relations in the past 50 years would not be able to solve the situation, which is not good for either of them.
Saritepeci noted, "It's true that tourism from Israel makes up less than 0.5% of all incoming tourism to Turkey, and in the past it even reached 2-3%, but the number of tourists arriving from Israel is not the important thing, but the ties they build in Turkey.
"Tourism is the best engine for relations between two countries. When the Turkish tourism minister sent me here in early 2011, he told me that the important thing is not the numbers but resuming tourism from Israel to Turkey. Tourism builds ties between countries, and improving the tourist relations between the countries will guarantee that other types of relations will be improved as well."
'No plan to close tourism office in Israel'
According to Saritepeci, the Turkish Tourism Office's budget for advertising on Israeli media was $1 million in 2011. By September 2, the office spent more than $600,000 from the budget, including full-page ads in daily newspapers.
The Turkish Tourism Ministry's total advertising budget in all Arab countries, by the way, totals only $2.5 million.
"On September 2 it all stopped, and at the moment we are not advertising in Israel at all," said Saritepeci. "But we are very optimistic and are preparing our advertising plans for Passover, because it's already the end of the season now.
"It's true that we've missed out on Rosh Hashana and Sukkot, but we'll resume our advertising ahead of Passover, together with travel agents specializing in the Turkish market."
The counselor added that Israelis have been calling the Turkish Tourism Office in Tel Aviv and inquiring when the charter flights to Antalya would be resumed. The fights were stopped several weeks ago, and at this stage there is no plan to resume them until the relations between the two countries improve.
"We explain to all the callers, many of whom stress that they have no other alternative for Turkey, that once the situation improves and the Israeli tourism wholesalers want to renew the flights, we'll support them and help them in any way because we share the same interest.
"In any event, although Israelis have stopped traveling to Turkey, there is no plan to close the Turkish Tourism Office in Israel."
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