Turkey’s southeastern provinces, which enjoyed a tourism boon during the de-facto cease-fire period between 2013 and the first half of 2015, are now facing a big decline in the number of visitors, with less tours heading to the region over security concerns.
Experts put the amount of losses at 300 million Turkish Liras as tourism to the region, which attracted around 3 million visitors during the “resolution process” of the Kurdish issue, has nearly come to a halt.
The threats posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have also contributed to potential visitors’ worries.
During the peak era, operators were sending around 100 busses of tourists to the region on a weekly basis. Now, operations are limited to gastronomy tours to southern culinary capitals in Gaziantep and Adana, neighboring the region.
“I can say that the losses only by the tour operators have reached 180 million liras,” one tourism company executive told daily Hürriyet.
The executive said operators were sending busses with 45 customers on board, paying around 1,000 liras per capita for a weekly tour.
“The visitors were picking tours for five to seven days,” the executive said. “They were paying entry fees for museums and historic places. They were paying for food and traditional music nights. They were buying baklava [a local dessert], wine, pistachios, paprika, mother-of-pearl, textile products and copper goods. This meant 1,000 per capita spent in the region.”
The boost in tourism was also a boon for airline companies. However, with the drop in demand, firms began operating smaller planes to the region, which also caused a hike in ticket prices.
One company executive told Hürriyet that many boutique hotels in southeastern Mardin and Adıyaman have laid off employees, while others have closed.
“Since industries are not developed in the region, hotels are facing a hard time,” the source said, adding that those in industrialized Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa were in a better shape.
The boat tours in Halfeti, the bus route to Mount Nemrut in Adıyaman, were among the other sources of regional revenues hit by the decline in visitors.