Protests fail to deter tourists

The past week’s protests (named as the Gezi Park protests after the central Istanbul Park, where plans to develop as a commercial centre sparked the protests originally among green peace supporters, which quickly led to many other denominators of the society, mainly those unhappy with the strong-hand ruler style of Erdogan) have changed many people’s perception of Turkey from a laid back sun drenched holiday spot to one of unrest and violence - but tourism is continuing unabated in what looks like will be the best year yet for visitor numbers.
One of the ten most visited countries in the world, this largely Muslim country that spans Asia and Europe welcomed almost 40 million visitors last year. Already this year, 5.2 million have visited Turkey, an increase of 14% over the same period last year.
However, for days now, riot police have locked horns with protestors in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities around the country. Officials originally feared protests could have long term effects on the country’s tourist industry but so far it looks like their fears are unfounded. Despite a few cancellations and closings Turkey’s ancient ruins, museums and beaches have remained unaffected, and tourists are refusing to be deterred.
Even Istanbul, where the protests have been centred, is largely business as usual, with popular attractions like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Okapi Palace and the numerous bathhouses open for business.
Tourists interviewed about the unrest says they had either heard about them and were not deterred or worried that they would be affected; or said they were unaware the protests were taking place.
Kathy Simpson from Manchester is visiting her sister in Fethiye for two weeks and told us that while she has seen small scale protests in Fethiye Town centre, she is not concerned about safety aspects. “There was a small but peaceful demonstration going on while I was in town this morning but overall Fethiye’s just the same as it always is. Like everything else, this will blow over.”
Marta Roberts, holidaying in Istanbul, said she had seen the protest in Taksim Square and agreed with the protestors’ motivations. “They’re exercising their democratic rights and standing up for their beliefs.” However, the protests had not stopped her from seeing some of the city’s most arresting sights. “By and large the protests haven’t affected my day. I’ve spent three days exploring the city and have been blown away by the amazing architecture and have met some friendly and helpful people.”
Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a statement today saying it was business as usual for the country.
“As shown in the international media in the last few days, there have been protests in Istanbul and a number of other provinces regarding the redevelopment of Taksim's Gezi Park.
“As of today, there are currently no problems being experienced with either transport or security in Istanbul or any of our tourism regions and thus every sort of touristic activity is carrying on as normal.”
“The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism continues to take every precaution regarding the safety of visitors to the country,” they added.


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