Turkey resort
A resort in Turkey. Photo by Moshe Gilad
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Tourism wholesalers are working behind the scenes with Turkish charter airlines in Israel to promote travel to Turkey for Israeli Arabs, TheMarker has learned. The marketing effort - which is focused on charter destinations such as Antalya, Dalaman, Marmaris and Bodrum - follow an Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau warning against travel to Turkey along with a precipitous drop in Israeli tourism there. The developments come in the wake of the violent confrontation between Turkish activists and the Israel Navy on a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara.

"I hope the return of Israeli Arabs to charter destinations in Turkey provides a signal for the resumption of travel from Israel, which has stopped completely," a senior airlines official in the Israeli Arab travel sector said.

"At this point," he added, "there still is no demand, but we are trying to put together packages that will be especially cheap and encourage travel from the Arab sector to destinations in Turkey."

The effort is modeled after similar travel promotions to Sinai, after terrorism warnings virtually stopped all Israeli tourism there. At the time, Israeli Arab tourists continued to cross into Egypt despite the warnings.

In the month of May, on the eve of the Gaza flotilla incident, Turkey was the fourth most popular destination for passengers flying out of Ben-Gurion International Airport, at 72,500 departures, representing a 28% increase over May 2009, according to the Israel Airports Authority. From January through May of this year, over 270,000 travelers flew to Turkey from Ben-Gurion, representing more than a 37% rise over the comparable period last year.

The most popular destination from Israel in May was the United States, with 127,000 departures, followed by Germany and then France. Italy came in fifth place after Turkey.