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Turkish Tourism Not Destroyed by Bombing | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish Tourism Not Destroyed by Bombing

Turkish Tourism Not Destroyed by Bombing

Turkish Tourism Not Destroyed by Bombing

ISTANBUL – On a normal winter’s day, Ramazan Uslanmaz would lead two groups of tourists around Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district, from the towering minarets of the Blue Mosque to the labyrinthine alleyways of the Grand Bazaar.
But since a suicide bomber walked into a group of German tourists as they stood by the Egyptian obelisk in the centre of Sultanahmet Square on Tuesday and blew himself up, killing 10 of them, the flow of visitors has all but evaporated according to Reuters.

The attack in Istanbul’s cultural and touristic heart, carried out by what the authorities say was a member of ISIS who entered the country as a Syrian refugee, marked a shift in tactics by the radical Sunni group in Turkey.

Its previous attacks, including a double suicide bombing in Ankara which killed 100 people last October, had appeared to target pro-Kurdish groups sympathetic to its battlefield enemies in Syria.

Coming after anti-government protests and small-scale attacks by leftist militants, and alongside the threat of a violent spillover from an insurgency in the largely Kurdish southeast, the Istanbul bombing poses perhaps the greatest threat so far to Turkey’s vital tourism industry, which accounts for about 4.5 percent of the $800 billion economy.

Yet, like the half-dozen other guides loitering outside the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia, smoking cigarettes and chatting as a small trickle of tourists queued to enter on the day after the attack, Uslanmaz, 38, is resolute.

“People have started returning to Paris, and they’ll be back here too,” he said, referring to November’s attacks in the French capital in which ISIS gunmen killed 130 people.
“This is the city of world civilizations, we have the Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet mosque,” he said, referring to the museum that was once a place of worship for Christians and then for Muslims, and to the mosque famed for its minarets and blue wall tiles.
“People won’t give up on them,” Uslanmaz said.

Tour operators TUI, the world’s largest, and Thomas Cook have offered customers in Germany due to come to Istanbul in the next week the chance to cancel or change their bookings free of charge.
Both said customers had been enquiring about the situation but TUI said so far it had received only a few such requests. Germans make up the highest number of foreign visitors to Turkey, followed by Russians and Britons.