Israeli travel agencies see drop in Turkey interest after security warning

After the government issued a particularly strong warning against travel to Turkey, Israeli travel agencies on Tuesday reported a clear drop in airline tickets purchased for the country.

According to Channel 12, price comparison site Travelist reported a 23 percent decrease in the past day in searches for vacations in Turkey (though the country was still in the five most sought-after destinations among Israelis).

The Gulliver travel website saw a sudden, sharp decrease in ticket purchases and packages to Turkey on Tuesday, the company said.

“As soon as relations warmed [between the two countries], Turkey became one of the most sought-after destinations for Israelis,” said Ziv Rosen, CEO of Gulliver Group. “In the past day, there’s been a drop of nearly 50% in package reservations and a 30% decrease in flights. We understand from previous similar experiences that the phenomenon is expected to stabilize within several days… The Israeli traveler has proven over the years that the need and desire to go on vacation outweighs any fears.”

Israeli security officials called and directly warned more than 100 Israeli citizens in Turkey that they are in Iran’s crosshairs, and asked them to return, according to a television report Monday.

The drop in demand caused ticket prices to Antalya to go down on the Julio travel app, and actually led to a sharp increase of over 30% in ticket sales, said Dubik Gal, the app’s marketing director.

Israel’s National Security Council has said there is a concrete threat to Israelis by “Iranian terrorist operatives” in Turkey and in nearby countries.

Istanbul’s skyline, with the iconic Galata Tower, January 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The alleged Iranian plot may be a response to the assassination of a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last week, which Iran attributed to Israel.

On Monday night, Channel 12 reported that Israeli security officials had called and directly warned more than 100 Israeli citizens in Turkey that they are in Iran’s crosshairs, and asked them to return. The report was unsourced.

Despite the highly irregular recent warnings, the travel advisory for Turkey has remained at its same level — three of four, a “moderate threat” — with recommendations to avoid visiting the country for nonessential reasons.

At level four — “high threat” — Israelis are explicitly told not to visit the country and to leave if they are already there. Countries with this warning include Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iran.