Turkey's tourism industry struggling in face of terrorism

Turkey's tourism industry struggling in face of terrorism

This time last year, Turkey was burgeoning with tourists.

In the other-worldly central Anatolia region of Cappadocia, people queued for hours at sites, roads heaved with tourist buses and the sheer weight of visitors was almost overwhelming. 

A year later, following a rash of deadly terror attacks, including in Ankara and Istanbul, the streets of the must-see, tourist-reliant village of Goreme, which would otherwise feel like a world of its own, are near empty.

The ancient cave churches and monasteries, the boutique hotels and warm family-run restaurants, the extraordinary phallic-shaped volcanic rock formations dotting the fairytale valleys and villages, are as safe and wonderful as they've ever been, according to Goreme-based Kiwi businesswoman Ruth Lockwood.

But despite being nestled hundreds of miles from any previous trouble, a formidable rival is right on its doorstep, scaring tourists away.

"People hear the word terrorism and there's an instant fear factor...[but] the sort of world we're living in today, it could happen anywhere, it's a perception only," she says.

If there's an upside in these trying times, those who do manage to shake off the fear get the most memorable of experiences when they walk into town. 

"Everyone gets a big, warm welcome because people are so happy they've come...people are so appreciative," Ms Lockwood says.

There's no question Kiwis and Aussies are dear to the hearts of the Turks, and have a long history of travelling there in big numbers and with big spirits of adventure.

"Bravo to the Australians and New Zealanders - they are always pragmatic, always sensible."

"A lot of them say, 'this was a trip I had planned, it was a dream of mine and I wasn't going to let something like this deter me'."

Then there are those who've been to Turkey before, who've loved it and who've reasoned that this sort of thing can happen anywhere.

But the shock has been mammoth, with Ms Lockwood estimating a tourism loss of 75 to 80 percent this season - last week's bombing at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul being the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Sometimes, you can walk down the street and see only one or two tourists, and that's really shocking in the 27 years I've been here.

"Everyone I've spoken to has said they'll be laying off staff, paring it all down and some of the hotels are already discussing closing, because there are just not enough people."

"Whole communities are struggling and it will be deeply shocking for the economy, but the effect on people's daily lives will be extraordinary...I don't think we can quite fathom how much in the next six months.

"I say to people, 'be safe, be smart, enjoy the smaller centres but don't change your life for these dreadful terrorists'."

"By living in fear and not moving and not travelling and not being out there in the world, we are buying into their philosophy and letting them win."