Commenting on negotiations held with the world's largest online reservation portal, Booking.com, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said the online travel fare aggregator is close to accepting the obligations it must fulfill in return for income in Turkey, adding that in such a case, it could restart operations for this year's tourism season.
Booking.com's activities in Turkey were halted on March 29, 2017, with a decision brought by an Istanbul court, after the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) filed a lawsuit against the leading online travel agency citing unfair competition in relation to Turkey's competition law.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Zeybekci said they are moving toward a solution in settlement talks with Booking.com, adding that the online travel agency may commence operations ahead of the new tourism season.
Zeybekci said the court's decision was appropriate at the time, emphasizing that the institution is at a more favorable point about bringing a solution to the problem.
"We are making progress to ensure a solution regarding the opening of an office in Turkey and becoming a liable company," Zeybekci said.
Explaining that Booking.com did not have a problem related to the marketing of Turkey to foreigners, Zeybekci said the problem was
related to it making or not making out an invoice in return for the income it earned from the marketing of Turkish tourism areas and facilities to Turkish nationals. He said Booking.com seems like it is moving toward a solution and accepting liabilities.
Meanwhile, Booking.com provided some signals regarding its return to the Turkish market, as it recently increased communications in a bid to return.
In a statement last month, Ahmet Temurci, the assistant general manager of promotions at the Culture and Tourism Ministry, announced that they had begun negotiations with booking.com, which has agreed to pay the required fine and could soon be back in the Turkish market.
Sources in the tourism industry also claimed that the website could return any time, probably prior to the beginning of the new season.
"Booking.com has to be controlled, but not restricted. Everyone must be able to use it and the reservations must be made from Turkey. This is also important in terms of a free market," Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said earlier this month.
While negotiations continue between Booking.com and the government, the company also gave signals of its return when it shared a job posting for a new account representative on online career portal LinkedIn a few days ago. The job posting was viewed more than 3,500 times in five days.
In other development, TÜRSAB has submitted a letter of guarantee to the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice.
The court had earlier asked TÜRSAB to submit a letter of guarantee worth TL 500,000 ($131,615) and said if the letter of guarantee was not received within the set period, the lifting of the injunction issued on Booking.com would be on the agenda.
A hearing will now be held on March 7.