‘We love Israeli tourists’: Turkish businessmen embrace normalization, seeking return of ‘good ol’ days’


Hotel managers in Istanbul admits to the Israeli media that they eagerly await the return of Israeli tourists, saying, ‘We hope Israeli tourists will return en masse, they’re preferred customers.’

By Tova Dvorin


Turkish business owners eagerly await the return of Israeli tourism, Channel 2 reports Friday, less than 24 hours after Israeli and Turkish officials held normalization talks in Switzerland.

“We love Israelis and they have almost stopped coming in recent years because of politics,” Saardan, a hotel worker in Istanbul, told the Israeli daily. He added that Israelis were, and remain, “preferred customers.”

“The buffet awaits you,” Malek Kiyeh, a Turkish hotel owner, added. “We love the Israelis and need to separate everything from politics.”

“It’s not dangerous here,” he added. “I hope that Israeli tourists will return en masse after the recent understanding between the two countries.”

Five years ago, dozens of Israelis would fly to Turkey every day, with Hebrew ubiquitous in the Muslim country. Israeli tourism in Turkey slowly declined, however, after the 2010 Mavi Maramara raid and the political fallout which followed. Until recently, most Israeli tourists to the area were Israeli Arabs, as Jews from Israel and abroad stayed clear of the anti-Israel sentiment amid multiple reports of anti-Semitism.

Despite this, Israeli tourism in Turkey has slowly been back on the rise. In July, Turkey became the most-visited Israeli tourism spot for that month, Yediot Aharonot reported, with 172,507 travelers between Tel Aviv and Istanbul – a 30% increase from July 2014. Greece was the second-most popular tourist destination, with the US a distant third.


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