Saudi officials tell citizens to shun Turkey as holiday destination

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published 12.07.2019 00:08

Saudi displeasure with its own citizens' interest in Turkey has forced the kingdom to spread false allegations to discourage people from visiting and spending their holiday in Turkey.

The main reason behind Saudi Arabia's hostile attitude toward Turkey is last year's killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country's consulate in Istanbul.

While the kingdom initially denied any responsibility for the murder and tried to accuse Turkey of not being safe for its citizens, Ankara pursued, and has been pursuing, a determined stance in the case and eventually forced the kingdom to reveal that the crime was actually committed by Saudis themselves.

The revelation caused major international backlash toward Saudi Arabia, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), whom the CIA mentioned as the mastermind of the murder.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Saudi tourists visit Turkey, thanks to its milder climate, turquoise waters and status as a crossroads between East and West.

But tensions over the journalist's murder are feeding into growing calls by nationalists and pro-government media to boycott Turkey.

"Don't go to Turkey" and "Turkey is not safe" are just some of the headlines that have popped up, with multiple media outlets running hostile stories in recent months.

Many, including Al-Arabiya, have splashed official warnings from the Saudi Embassy in Ankara about rising passport theft and petty crime.

Abdullah, a 39-year-old Riyadh-based academic, laughed off the travel warnings, telling AFP his family planned a Turkey visit this year.

"Saudis love going to Turkish restaurants" in their own country, said Abdullah, who requested his full name be withheld.

"When they finish eating they write on Twitter: ‘Don't go to Turkey.'"

A total of 6.8 million tourists visited Turkey from all over the world in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Tourism Ministry. In terms of the number of tourists, Turkey is ranked sixth in the world in 2018, a year that country hosted almost 46 million tourists.

As a matter of fact, the number of tourists, especially from the Gulf region, has been increasing for almost two decades, mostly thanks to the success of the Turkish TV series in the region and the well-established tourism facilities in the country. As Turkish TV series spread all over the Arab world, more and more Arab citizens have become interested in Turkish culture and language and want to visit Turkey, especially Istanbul, to experience it firsthand.

However, in addition to Istanbul, the southern resorts such as Antalya and the cool, fresh and green mountains of the Black Sea region, with Trabzon and Artvin provinces being the main targets, have become yet other destinations for Arab tourists. Turkey is also known for its success in halal tourism.

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