Turkish tourism group aims to send 100,000 to Jerusalem

Association of Turkish Travel Agencies plans to work with Tourism Ministry, airlines to increase tourism, promote peace

Illustrative photo of Turkish Airlines planes on a runway (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Turkish Airlines planes on a runway (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A Turkish tourism association announced Sunday that it aims to send around 100,000 Turkish tourists to Israel in 2015 to promote peace.

“One of the synonyms of tourism is peace. We want to make a contribution to maintaining peace in Jerusalem by increasing the number of tourists there,” the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), Başaran Ulusoy, said, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

Turkey has rebounded from a lull in 2012 to once again become a popular travel destination for Israeli tourists, despite chilly diplomatic relations between the two countries and generally negative feelings toward Israel among Turks.

According to Ulusoy, however, only between 10,000 and 15,000 Turks traveled to Jerusalem so far in 2014, but TÜRSAB hopes to jack that number up almost tenfold with Ankara’s help.

“We want to increase this number to 100,000 in 2015 by preparing special package tours to Jerusalem with the help of the promotional activities of the Tourism Ministry,” Ulusoy said. “Turkey’s airline companies should also start discounted flights to the city, and in this way we can reach our 2015 target.”

Prior to the 2010 IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-flagged ship that aimed to break the Israeli-imposed naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, almost half a million Israeli tourists visited Turkey in 2008. That number dramatically plummeted after the incident, which left nine Turkish citizens dead, to just 31,652 tourists in the first half of 2012.

However, in the first half of 2013, Turkey reported an 80 percent increase in Israeli tourists, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much-publicized March apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the incident.

Meanwhile, the number of Israeli tourists to Turkey has started to recover after the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid, according to official figures. Israel was once one of Turkey’s most important sources of tourists with 331,582 visitors in 2009.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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