Unrest in Turkey cripples tourism

Posted by on Jul 17, 2016 in Brian's Blog, Terrorism, Travel, Vacations | 0 comments

Cruise lines had already cancelled port stops at Istanbul – while still docking at other Turkish seaports – even before Friday night’s attempted military coup in Turkey. Now it looks as if the cruise ships won’t be returning to this beautiful country any time soon.

The Mediterranean cruise we took in March was called Catalonia to Constantinople. It brought us from Barcelona to the Istanbul airport, with stops in France, Monaco, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Montenegro. Now it’s been renamed Catalonia to Greece, and Turkey has been dropped from the itinerary. “The safety of our passengers is paramount,” we were told when our scheduled day-long visit to Istanbul was cancelled because of a suicide bombing. Shortly after that, our cruise line, Viking, and several other lines eliminated port stops in Turkey entirely.

This, of course, is very disappointing for all the Turkish restaurant operators, retail merchants, local tour guides, bus drivers and others who depend on tourism for their livelihoods. I think in particular of the Toronto-born sales rep we met at a carpet shop in Kusadasi, near Ephesus, who was genuinely grateful that our ship had opted to dock there as scheduled.

The sales rep (with the blue shirt) put on a lovely presentation of carpet-making artistry, served us complimentary pastries and Turkish coffee, and didn't do a hard sell as we fully expected he might.

The sales rep (with the blue shirt) put on a lovely presentation of carpet-making artistry after our local tour guide (in the red scarf) introduced him. He served us complimentary pastries and Turkish coffee, and didn’t do a hard sell as we fully expected he might. He did get a few takers, though. Some of the cruisers picked up small carpets that could be neatly folded into compact carry-on bags, and didn’t cost them an arm and a leg.

The great fear, said the rep, was that the cruise ships would start bypassing Turkey because of  the terrorist threat. “If you guys don’t stop here any more, we’re dead in the water,” he said. “We totally rely on tourism for our survival.”

I can only imagine how he feels today.

My thoughts today are also with the people of Nice, which we visited for a short time when our ship was docked at Monte Carlo. We had zero interest in visiting the Monaco casinos so we opted instead to stroll along Nice’s English promenade, as it is called, in the warm light of the mid-morning late-winter sunshine.

The seafront promenade in Nice, where a truck attacker killed scores of people and injured hundreds on Bastille Day.

The seafront promenade in Nice, where a truck attacker killed scores of people and injured hundreds on Bastille Day.

We loved the relaxed pace of urban life in Nice. We stopped for hot chocolate and a croissant at at an indoor-outdoor café where the owner scrolled up the screens to let the fresh air in. That meant we weren’t bothered by the ubiquitous cigarette smoke that seems to permeate all the bars and restaurants of Europe. The patrons, who were mostly local, read their newspapers and chatted about affairs of the day. It never crossed our minds for a moment that this picture-postcard-perfect Mediterranean resort city could be hit by a terrorist attack.

We listed Nice as one of the places in Europe (the others included Dubrovnik and Barcelona) that we’d like to revisit some day.

Now we’re not so sure.

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Copyright 2016 Brian Brennan - Writer

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