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Turkish tourism operators insist ‘we’re not Libya’

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Geographic confusion is hitting Turkey's formerly booming tourism figures, with many travellers under the impression the country is at risk of unrest.

The tourism sector in Turkey boomed during the recession due to its affordability and its location within the Eurozone. However, since the rise of demonstrations for democracy in North African Arab countries and, worse still, the crisis in Libya, bookings have declined by over nine per cent this year.

Tourist organisations and travel agencies are blaming fears of Middle East and North African riots on the decline, with potential holidaymakers confusing politically stable Turkey with the dictator-controlled Arab states. Or, perhaps, they just don't look at online maps when deciding on a holiday destination.

Whatever the reason, Turkish holiday companies are desperate to reassure potential visitors there is no chance of a rebellion in their country, Specialists Anatolian Sky Holidays are amazed tourists are confusing North Africa with Turkey, either geographically or politically. Akin Koc, its MD, was expecting a surge in bookings after the North African unrest spiralled and is at a loss to understand the decline.

Turkey, he explained, has been a democracy since 1923 and, perhaps more importantly, is a secular state, with religion taking no part in its running. Last year, well over two and a half million British holidaymakers headed for Turkey, a 10 per cent increase on 2009, but fears are now surfacing the current fall in bookings will get worse.

Director of Holidaymate Stuart Kerr said he usually points clients to the country's beaches, traditions, culture and value for money, but this year he's being dragged into talking about politics. The message, he said, is that Turkey is a typical Mediterranean country, with many similarities to Greece and Cyprus and almost none with Egypt and Tunisia.