Britons travelling to Turkey have been warned of a ‘high’ terror threat following the triple attacks on Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport and a failed military coup last year.
But with Turkey a popular holiday destination for many, is it still a safe place to travel to?
The Government’s view
The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its Turkey travel advice page to reflect the recent events:
"There is a high threat from terrorism. Terrorist groups, including Kurdish groups, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) and far left organisations, continue to plan and carry out attacks. Further attacks are likely and could be indiscriminate.
"There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.
"Most terrorist attacks have taken place in the south and east of the country and in Ankara and Istanbul. Attacks are most likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations. Nevertheless, it’s likely that some attacks will also target western interests and tourists from western countries, particularly in the major cities.
"The Turkish authorities have successfully disrupted attack planning in the recent past and have said that security has been tightened in response to recent attacks. But further attacks are likely and could be indiscriminate.
"You should be vigilant, follow the advice of local security authorities, monitor media reports and keep up to date with this travel advice."
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:
- the remaining areas of Sirnak, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Diyarbakir, Kilis and Hatay provinces
- the provinces of Siirt, Tunceli and Hakkari
"British nationals made over 1.7 million visits to Turkey in 2016. It’s generally safe to travel to Turkey, but you should take additional safety precautions. Be alert to your surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places popular with foreign nationals, including during festival periods such as Christmas and New Year.
"Rallies and demonstrations, official and unofficial, may take place at short notice. You should stay well away from any demonstrations.
"The situation has calmed following an attempted coup on 15 to 16 July 2016. But the security environment remains potentially volatile and a state of emergency is in place.
"In some busy areas, especially Istanbul, the Turkish authorities are stopping members of the public to conduct ID checks. There’s also a larger than usual number of police checkpoints on main roads across Turkey. You should co-operate with officials conducting checks, and keep your passport and a printed copy of your e-visa or your residence permit with you at all times."
Check the FCO's Turkey travel advice page for more updates.
The industry’s view
Bob Atkinson, Travel Expert at TravelSupermarket said that while tourists bound for Istanbul should discuss their options with airlines and agents, holiday resorts are unaffected.
“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the Turkish people following the attack and loss of lives at Istanbul Ataturk airport.
“If you have a booking to travel via the city or to the city you should discuss with your airline, tour operator or travel agent what your options are should you no longer wish to travel. However most bookings will not be able to be changed or cancelled without a fee.
“It’s vital to stress that the coastal resorts along the Med, where the vast majority of the 2.5 million Brits who visit the country each year travel to, are unaffected by this tragedy and many miles away from the cities. Brits are still booking great value holidays to the popular Mediterranean coastline, famous for its stunning scenery, warm blue seas, friendly welcome and historical sights. Most of those are all-inclusive breaks where you tend to stay within the hotel complex to enjoy all your deal offers you.
“In Turkey’s popular coastal resorts, such as Bodrum, Antalya and Fethiye, it is business as usual with tourism continuing on as normal. The majority of Turkish destinations have shown an increase in searches in recent weeks and Dalaman is now back in TravelSupermarket’s top 25 searches.
“We’ll have to see if this changes, however value is an important factor for many last-minute deal hunters as well as safety and security, which to date has been enjoyed in the costal resorts.
“For those looking to book a city break to Istanbul then ensure you have read the FCO advice before booking and follow this when you holiday there.
“If you’re going to book a holiday to Turkey or any other destination, we always recommend booking an ATOL-backed package where possible to protect yourself, should the situation change and the safety of tourists become a concern.
“If this was to happen, the FCO would change its advice to warn against all travel which triggers a well-rehearsed plan to remove holidaymakers from the country and to stop new holidays starting until things calm down. ATOL-backed breaks offer protection against situations such as this and you would get a full refund if your holiday was cancelled or some compensation if it was cut short.
“If you plan to book a DIY break consisting of separate flights and accommodation, this is where I’d be very cautious as you are reliant on the airline and hotel policies for cancellations, which may well leave you out of pocket. So, be aware of this if you prefer the non-package option.”
Frank Brehany, Consumer Director of HolidayTravelWatch, calls on the travel industry and the government for more cohesive security information for holidaymakers.
He says: “The shocking events at Istanbul Airport is an unwelcome reminder that the horrific events of Brussels Airport should have attracted a worldwide re-think on airport security.
“Brussels Airport has now deployed a greater zoning around its perimeter and such extensive action is required at all airports around the world. It is no use simply offering the mantra ‘we must not give into terror’; actions have to be demonstrable, and yes, whilst they may add time and inconvenience to our schedules, most people would accept that this is a small price to pay for extra peace of mind but also to frustrate criminal attempts to kill or injure innocent people.
“Equally, as we sit on the anniversary of the terrible events from the beach of Sousse in Tunisia, we note the generality of Travel Advisories and call upon those responsible, be they government or travel industry, to offer specific resort guidance on the steps taken to secure such areas along with details of recent and historic suspicious activity in that area.
“I also think that it is perhaps time for general holiday Travel Insurance companies to offer Travel Risk Intelligence, as indeed some do for commercial travellers, so that Consumers can benefit from this valuable source of information. By governments, airport and commercial outlets taking these actions, this will instil greater confidence in Consumers and respect for their inability to be able to fully risk assess security issues for themselves and their families; it really is time to have this joined up conversation on travel safety.”