Greece May Benefit From Frayed Israeli-Turkish Ties June 7, 2010Posted by Yilan in Israel, Turkey, Yunanistan.
Tags: Greece, Israel, Turkey
When Israeli commandos raided an aid convoy headed to Gaza, the deadly assault pushed already strained relations with Ankara to a breaking point. Turkey recalled its top envoy from Tel Aviv, scrapped joint military war games and called an emergency meeting at the United Nations to lambaste what it called Israel’s heavy-handed tactics. Today, a week later, Israelis increasingly angry at Turkey are responding by closing their purses. Turkish travel operators say Israeli tourism has taken a dramatic nosedive, with vacation cancellations being recorded en masse.
El Al Israeli airline and Atlasjet Airlines have frozen plans to kick off a jointly managed route from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, while the National Security Council has advised Israelis in Turkey to lay low in their hotels for fear of violent reprisals. For debt-ridden Greece, the fallout may prove a bit of a godsend. “We don’t want to be seen as making a mint out of something as tragic as last week’s incident,” Anna Anifandi of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies told AOL News. “But it’s not uncommon for sudden shifts in travel to take place, driving tourists to other neighboring, rival destinations.”
While both NATO members, Greece and Turkey have been at loggerheads for decades over land, air and sea rights that brought them to the brink of war in 1996. In recent years, though, the once-hostile neighbors have forged a policy of rapprochement, forging closer ties. Still, fighting a devastating debt crisis that has threatened Europe’s single currency, the euro, and sparked fears of wider monetary fallouts in southern Europe, Athens was banking on a quick fix from tourism. But recurring images of rioting workers, deadly demonstrations and debilitating strikes have so far spoiled hopes that throngs of vacationers would select Greece. Cruises, though, carrying Israelis to Turkish destinations have begun changing course, offering low-budget alternative itineraries to the Greek islands and Cyprus. “For many years, Israelis have been happy to close themselves up in the Turkish coastal all-inclusive resorts,” said Joseph Fischer from IDB Tourism. “Maybe now, when it is no longer an option, they will open up to new places and new vacation experiences.” Greece, Fischer told The Jerusalem Post, is a viable option. Yet in the same way that the Israelis are punishing Turkey, Fischer told the newspaper, the Germans and other Europeans are punishing Greece for the age-old profligacy and practice of spendthrift policies. Turkey is the single most popular foreign destination for Israeli travelers, accounting for about 13 percent of all departures and generating annual revenues of $300 million.
Two in three of Israeli tourists head for budget resorts tucked along the southwest coasts of Turkey — a brief ferry ride from Greece’s clusters of craggy outcrops in the Aegean Sea. By some accounts, the Athens News weekly reported, as many as 50,000 reservations have been canceled in popular Turkish hot-spots, making Cyprus and the Greek isles an easy alternative for Israeli holidaymakers. “We don’t want to start quantifying the numbers,” Anifandi said. “It’s a diplomatically difficult situation,” she said. For Turkey’s $660 billion economy, losing Israeli trade and tourism may be costly. It remained unclear whether defense orders would also be imperiled. Also at risk, say Greek diplomats minding the fallout between Israel and Turkey, will be energy, agriculture and irrigation projects estimated at $20 billion.