Keeping calm in turbulent times

The German tourism industry should avoid actions against Turkey, argues fvw’s Tobias Pusch.

And now the German foreign ministry as well… On the Monday after ITB the ministry changed its travel advice for Turkey. It warned that “during the election campaign increased political tension and protests must be expected, which could also be directed against Germany. In some cases, German travellers to Turkey could also be affected”.

This update is the reaction to the increasingly dramatic Turkish politics under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is worrying Western observers as it’s a long way away from what was understood so far as politics. It’s not rational any more. There’s just a domestic logic designed to get the masses behind him for the constitutional referendum on April 16. Any potential collateral damage, for example in tourism, doesn’t count for much.

In view of these tensions, many Germans have lost their desire for a holiday in Turkey. The figures are clear. Early bookings have collapsed by 58%, and that is based on a poor previous year and with unbelievably low prices. 50% of Germans said in a representative survey that a holiday in Turkey is out of the question at present.

Yet the Turkish economy would benefit from the revival effect of tourism more than ever at present, especially from the hard currency of German visitors, as the country is in a deep economic crisis. The economy has shrunk by 1.8%, the lira has collapsed and inflation is nearly at a double-digit level. So it would be rational for Turkey to look after its tourism industry. But such behaviour cannot be expected given the political climate.

German tourism managers are worried about these prospects. One group maintains that long-standing business partners, who are not to blame for the situation, should be supported. But there is now another group which would be ready to send a signal. But what target should be reached with this step? It’s well-known that Erdogan does not react to pressure and he would not even notice a step by German tourism managers.

It’s far more important instead that the industry should stay calm and act on a factual basis. This does not guarantee that there will be good tourism relationships with Turkey in future. But if bridges are broken down now, then business would suffer even in a milder political climate. And apart from all that, things are already tough enough for the Turkish business partners. Now is the right time to show with actions that there is a deep friendship between the German and the Turkish tourism industry.

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