UPDATES WITH MORE STATEMENTS
By Gokhan Ergocun
ISTANBUL (AA) - Hours after the collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook, Turkish authorities moved to reassure tourists in Turkey who booked and paid for their holidays through the iconic firm.
Turkey's tourism establishments cannot request additional payments from Thomas Cook customers, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry announced on Monday.
The payments of Thomas Cook U.K. guests staying in Turkish tourism establishments -- including for over the weekend -- are guaranteed by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licencing (ATOL) of the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the ministry tweeted.
It said that as of Monday, there were over 21,000 guests of Thomas Cook U.K. in Turkish accommodation facilities.
If establishments request additional payments from Thomas Cook U.K. guests or vacate them from their rooms, these establishments will face legal action, it added.
The ministry said that it would shortly provide a credit support package with the country's Treasury and Finance Ministry for tourism firms affected by Thomas Cook’s collapse.
For canceled flights, the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence announced that it is organizing new flights for these passengers.
-‘Send them home safe and sound’
On Thomas Cook’s difficulties, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said the most important issue was to send the British guests back home safely without any difficulties.
He stressed Thomas Cook’s bases of operations were not just limited to the U.K. but also included Germany, Nordic countries, and Russia.
He said within 48 hours the situation with Cook’s German division would be clear and if Germany is included in the firm’s collapse, the number of Thomas Cook guests in Turkey would rise from 21,000 to 40,000, and if Russia and Nordic countries are also included it would climb to 80,000.
Ersoy said that each country has its own recovery legislation and that he hoped the problem would only be limited to the U.K.
Ersoy added that British tourists did not slacken their support for Turkey during the country’s 2016 tourism crisis.
He added that the payments of British guests of Thomas Cook who entered the hotels as of Sept. 22 or later are under the guarantee of British authorities.
"These passengers should not be charged in any way, we have stated that we will investigate businesses that do not comply with this rule," Ersoy said.
-Credit and gap
Osman Ayik, head of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED), said the Thomas Cook situation could hurt Turkish tourism.
"This is unfortunate, in fact, many destinations in Spain, Portugal, Greece and other continents will be affected negatively, but of course the situation in our country concerns us the most," Ayik said.
He added that Thomas Cook had extensive bookings in Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean regions and that a chain of employees to suppliers would be affected by this.
Ayik said the U.K.’s Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) was responsible for getting holidaymakers back to the U.K. and to pay for ongoing stays, from today onwards.
Ulkay Atmaca, head of the Professional Hotel Managers Association of Turkey (POYD), said sector stakeholders need to act fast and take steps to fill the gap left by Thomas Cook.
Atmaca stressed that tourists would never be victimized or left in the lurch by Turkish tourism.
Erkan Yagci, head of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association (AKTOB), said Turkish tourism had overcome many hurdles and would also overcome this crisis.
"Turkish tourism will show hospitality to guests coming to our country for their holidays," he said.
Pointing out that there is more than one Thomas Cook branded facility in the southern town of Alanya, Burhan Sili, head of the Touristic Management Association of Alanya (ALTID), said they will do cost and risk assessments with sector representatives.
Firuz Baglikaya, head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), said that most hotels and service providers in tourist hot spots such as Alanya, Side, Kemer, Fethiye, Bodrum and Marmaris have a significant amount of credit from Thomas Cook.
"In terms of the consumers of the tour operator's customers, the commercial enterprises of our country which cooperated with Thomas Cook and hosted consumers on their behalf suffered serious commercial losses," he said.
- Thomas Cook
The major British holiday operator and airline has “ceased trading with immediate effect,” British authorities said on Monday morning.
All bookings by the 178-year-old company -- including flights and holidays -- were canceled, they stated.
Around 150,000 people are expected to be affected by the canceled flights.