Istanbul is one of the safest cities in the world for tourists, despite the terrorist attacks of the past few years and the military coup attempt of 2016.
The city; a centuries-old crossroad between East and West, remains modern, cosmopolitan, inviting and, most of all, safe for tourists drawn to its allure. It has also been a favourite holiday destination for many generations of Greek tourists.
Faruk Boyacı; manager of Sirkeci Mansion Hotel in Istanbul, one of Greek Reporter’s Preferred Hotels, explains that despite reports which led to a bad year in the city’s tourism in 2016, the city offers unparalleled security to all its visitors.
“To be honest except for the declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ very few things have affected our life styles in Turkey in the past year,” says Mr. Boyaci.
“Turkey has been the victim of numerous terrorist attacks since January 2016 and certain precautions were taken, such as additions to the private security staff by the entrances of the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, museums and all public transportation, where we started seeing civil police officers with metal detectors.”
“They kindly ask us to open our bags and check every piece we have with us.” Boyaci points out.
The only other significant change in the post-coup and terror attacks daily life in Istanbul is the new, three-hour rule in airport departures. For security reasons, passengers of international flights have to be at the airport three, instead of two hours before departure. But that is hardly a hustle.
Coup attempt aside, last year was Turkey’s worst year in tourism. After the incident, tourism professionals in the country expected a show of support from the international community, but they received inaccurate reports from the media instead, says Boyaci.
He claims that reporting about the power struggle between Islamist president Erdogan and the so-called “Kemalist state” (which has been at the heart of foreign reporting on the coup attempt), prevented Europeans, Americans and Australians from visiting Turkey.
Another preventing factor was the decision by travel agents to exclude Turkey from their programs. “The decision of cruise companies in particular, to exclude Turkey from their routes, has had a profound effect on tourism’s decline in the country,” according to Boyaci.
Security concerns about Istanbul; especially after the coup attempt, were on the rise, but as the successful organization of the 2017 Euroleague Basketball Final-4 demonstrated, they were inaccurate.
“Istanbul hosted the high profile sports event in an exemplary fashion, with athletes, international journalists, and European basketball fans alike seeing first hand how security was handled impeccably by the city’s officials. It was a test for the city’s security services; one they passed with flying colours.”
Local politics was another concerning factor. However; Boyaci stresses, that all political factions in Turkey are committed both to democracy and to the fight against terrorism. As secular citizens in a modern, secure city, tourism specialists are saddened by the “security concerns” reflected in international media reports.
Still, they remain optimistic. “With such a beautiful country, rich in history, a geography that straddles two continents and their cultures, and as hospitable and hard working people, we have faith that we will continue to be one of the world’s most important tourist destinations,” concludes Boyaci.