Outlook bleak for Turkey tourism after airport blasts

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Istanbul, June 30: Turkey's already limping tourism industry is suffering a fresh grievous blow after the latest in a series of attacks targeted at tourists claimed dozens of lives, analysts said on Wednesday.

The suicide bombings at Istanbul's Ataturk airport -- which also left over 200 wounded -- come just weeks after Kurdish separatists issued a warning to travellers against visiting the country as they claimed responsibility for a June 7 car bombing.

Also read: Istanbul & Brussels terror attacks: A lot of similarities

Turkey tourism suffers after attack

For a destination which has sold itself to prospective visitors from abroad using its storied monuments -- especially sites like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia church in the heart of Istanbul -- the explosions are economically devastating.

"This is very bad news for tourism and more generally for air travel. It's an attack that directly targeted travellers." said Jean-Pierre Mas, head of French travel agencies association Entreprises du Voyage.

Figures released by the Turkish tourism ministry showed that the month of May had already seen the worst drop-off in visits in 22 years, down 35 percent on 2015's figure. This was also a result of a ban on Turkey travel for Russians, which was however lifted today.

Taleb Rifai, head of the UN's World Tourism Organization, said in a statement that the terror attack was evidence of a "global threat" facing the tourism sector.

In Wednesday's attacks bombers believed to be linked to the Islamic State jihadist group struck at the home of flag carrier Turkish Airlines and "the hub of the tourism industry," said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey research programme at the Washington Institute.

It's Istanbul's "second most emblematic location after Taksim square," the analyst went on. Turkish Airlines -- which in May posted a massive loss of USD 421 million for the first quarter of 2016 -- is "the only Turkish company known abroad", Cagaptay pointed out.

The conservative government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hoped to make the 49-percent state-owned carrier a top-ten global player.

Adverts for the airline have been prominent at June's Euro 2016 football tournament in France as it seeks to woo passengers back aboard its fleet, one of the most modern in the world, in the wake of multiple bombings that have driven away business.

PTI

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