All holidaymakers who were stranded in Turkey after the collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook last month, have returned to Britain after completing their holiday.
Some 13,879 tourists visiting the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya were flown back to the U.K., a statement by the Antalya Governor's Office said Monday.
Tourists who spent their holidays in the southwestern province of Muğla and its famous holiday districts flew back home from Dalaman and Bodrum-Milas airports. A total of 22,070 tourists, including 20,000 from Dalaman Airport and 2,070 from Bodrum-Milas Airport, returned to the U.K.
The British government completed the country's biggest peacetime repatriation Monday, returning over 140,000 U.K.-based Thomas Cook customers stranded abroad after the collapse of the holiday operator, according to the U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The last flight touched down at Manchester airport in northern England marked the end of the two-week-long Operation Matterhorn – Britain's biggest repatriation since World War II.
Thomas Cook, the world's oldest travel agency, collapsed on Sept. 23. The 178-year-old British operator failed to get a last-ditch rescue deal and declared bankruptcy, leaving more than half a million people stranded around the globe.
In the aftermath of the collapse, Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry said it was working with the Treasury and Finance Ministry on a loan package, estimated at around 50 million euros ($54.93 million), to be put in place as soon as possible to help affected businesses.
The payments of Thomas Cook U.K. guests staying in Turkish tourism establishments were guaranteed by the Air Travel Organizer's License (ATOL) of the CAA, the ministry said.
Bülent Bülbüloğlu, deputy chair of the Federation of Turkish Hoteliers (TÜROFED) and chairman of the South Aegean Tourist Hoteliers and Operators Association (GETOB), told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Thomas Cook customers staying in the Aegean region, as well as Antalya, were sent off without any problems.
"We saw the last passengers in our region off on Oct. 6. There are no Thomas Cook passengers left in our country," Bülbüloğlu said, adding the accommodation and return costs of all Thomas Cook passengers staying in Turkey as of Sept. 23 were covered by ATOL.
"Our priority was to see the passengers return home without any problems. Therefore, that was done. Now we will share our bills with ATOL. We have not received our payments yet, but we hope we will receive them soon," Bülbüloğlu said, underlining that Thomas Cook did not make the payments covering the July-August period.
"There is a payment covering about three months. We, as hoteliers, are in contact with law offices in the U.K. and the Netherlands. We are going to file a lawsuit against Thomas Cook in both countries," he added.
Bülbüloğlu said the businesses that suffered due to Thomas Cook's bankruptcy have started to apply for the loan support package. "The 50-million euro package was announced but the Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy has assured us that this figure could go up. The amount of the package can reach 60 million to 70 million euros," he added.
On the other hand, Turkey's Tourism Advisory Council said last week it estimates that Thomas Cook owes the local sector more than 350 million euros, adding that the amount couldn't be repaid in the short and medium-term.
The operator worked directly with suppliers by establishing contractual and invoice-based relations, especially for accommodation, which is said to be the biggest reason behind the tour operator's debt to Turkey's tourism industry.
Doğan Tugay, the British Honorary Consul in Marmaris, also underscored that the tourists who were sent to the U.K. from Muğla completed their vacations as of Oct. 6.
"They did not get affected by the bankruptcy in any way. Transfers to the airports were carried out in the best way possible. Some 20,000 people from Dalaman Airport and 2,070 from Bodrum-Milas Airport have returned to their country," Tugay told AA.
Marmaris and its surroundings suffered the biggest damage due to the bankruptcy, Bülbüloğlu further stated, recalling that Thomas Cook brought 460,000 tourists to Marmaris and its surrounding regions.
"It sounds like it will be difficult to close this gap, but Turkey is a very important player in the Mediterranean. We are also a world giant," he said.
Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy recently said Turkey will be able to make up for the number of tourists lost in the collapse of the U.K.-based tour operator, which brought 700,000 passengers to Turkey this season before it went bankrupt. He also announced that several airlines were expected to increase the number of flights to the country.
Ersoy said he was unconcerned by the collapse and that Turkey was holding talks with several airlines to add more flights into areas affected by the closure of the tour operator.