BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It is remarkable, almost unbelievable. For the first time in a quarter century of reading the Los Angeles Times and seeing endless advertising flaunting Turkish touristic venues coupled with occasional articles in the paper’s travel section, I noticed a negative item in the February 14 issue titled “Turkey and safety issues.” Of course it is accompanied by a pretty picture of hot air balloons over Cappadocia, just to attenuate the “harshness” of such a piece in what is the paper’s forum for promoting travel to interesting places.
The author, Christopher Reynolds, takes great pains not to come out and explicitly write “don’t go, it’s not safe.” He writes that the State Department is “increasingly nervous,” that Turkey has been a terrorist target in recent months, that “Istanbul… as worldly a city as can be” is 550 miles from the Syrian border – an implicit reference to the instability Turkey has fomented in its neighbor which is now spilling across the border. He is silent about the Kurds and the war being waged by the government against them, except in “code,” contained in the reference to “an increased threat of terrorist attacks” in southeastern turkey.
Reynolds notes the huge numbers of Russian tourists who used to visit Turkey and its beaches until the Russian jet was downed by Turkey in November. The decreasing flow of European, and especially German tourists is not mentioned.
My favorite comment is “before you book that that Turkish trip – or cancel it, consider…”
To anyone paying attention, the very appearance of such an item is screaming “don’t go, you fool!” I’m curious (and hope someone analyzes/counts) what happens to advertising in the LA Times by Turkey’s tourism interests, governmental and private. Will it increase, decrease, or stay the same relative to levels prior to this article?
If Erdoğan’s inclinations penetrate into this realm, then a cutoff of advertising could be forthcoming. That would be great. If it happens, that might be a good time to find a way to get advertising for Turkish Airlines off the City of LA’s buses. Currently, that course of action is stymied by freedom of speech considerations, I’ve been informed. But it seems to me there must be ways of accomplishing that end.
It’s embarrassing to Armenians in the Los Angeles basin to have such a potent, positive presence painting Turkey as a charming place, all courtesy of the people Turks have persecuted and massacred through the ages, and even now.
The decline in tourism dollars is a blow to Turkey’s economy, and we should be doing everything we can to discourage travel there until real progress is made. The promising part of this proposal is the prospect of profit to neighboring countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and even Egypt. People can get the same kind of history, climate, and beaches by going there and avoiding Turkey!
It might be the right time to take up this fight. Perhaps our numerous travel agents could form an ANCA coordinated consortium to promote these alternative destinations, strike a blow for Hai Tahd, and make a buck along the way.