BEIRUT: Turkey’s high season for Lebanese tourists kicked off on a strong note in May of this year, with early bookings on well-priced package deals leading to tight traffic at the airport. The momentum only grew with the Turkish currency devaluating in mid-July.
Faced with sharp devaluation of the lira against the U.S. dollar, many Turkish hotels, businesses and traders have hiked prices in a bid to cushion the impact of the steep financial crisis, according to some travel agencies in Lebanon.
Turkey is now forced to access its strongest industries and try to generate reasonable profit by ramping up the general cost of travel in the high season, which runs through mid-spring to the end of the summer.
This means that the average tourist will not be able to greatly benefit from the fall of the Turkish lira as some people assumed.
But travel agencies stressed that the Lebanese continued to spend their vacation in Turkey despite the revision of prices by Turkish businesses and hotels.
They said that Turkey is still a cheaper touristic destination than many other countries.
Lebanon and Turkey maintain diplomatic ties that create easy access for both countries to travel freely and without any entry visas.
Mahmoud Habbash, general manager at Travel Factory, explains that the international sanctions on Turkey and consequently its currency value drop, have a minimum if nonexistent effect on Lebanese tourists.
“In fact, the numbers of Lebanese tourists keep increasing by year” he continues. Tourist packages to Turkey’s major cities prove to be the most attractive deal to most Lebanese people.
Most tourism agencies motivate their customers to buy early in the season in order to benefit from the good deal.
Tania Travel’s outgoing Manager Fernando Berjene believes there are many reasons for the hike in the prices of hotel accommodations in Turkey. He said that despite the rise in prices, Turkey in general is still cheaper than Lebanon in many ways.
“For most Lebanese, touring Lebanon does not feel worth its cost” Berjene reiterated.
He also argued that Lebanese people find themselves unable to afford in-state tours, activities, products and services.
“Most prefer to save for a fuller experience of adventure outside, especially families who can save money and receive a positive experience. It gives families the chance to explore many cities during the vacation,” Berjene said.
The change of price packages in Turkey since May of this year has prompted travel agencies such as Emy Travel to increase the prices almost on weekly basis.
General Manager Amina Khayat suggests that one of the reasons for a price hike was the influx of Russian tourists who ultimately form a bigger number of visitors per year. “
When you have millions coming from here (Russia) and thousands coming from here (Beirut), who would you choose?” Khayat states. “It’s only fair that the Turkish services become more expensive in light of what has happened”.
Yet, for Khayat the business to Turkey remains a lucrative business, noting that the agency’s profits rose 10 percent this year compared to previous year.