German tour operators welcome subsidies U-turn


Tour operators in Germany have welcomed a U-turn by Turkish tourism minister Mahir Ünal under which they will receive flight subsidies this summer rather than airlines.

Ünal has clarified plans to provide a subsidy of US$6,000 per flight this summer to support the country’s tourism sector. Under the ‘2016 Tourism Action Plan’ presented by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in February, it was initially proposed to pay airlines a subsidy of US$6,000 per flight for services to five airports in April and May to cope with low load factors.

However, German tour operators criticised this idea, arguing it would be more effective to pay them the subsidy instead so that they could pass on the cost saving to consumers. They also had to wait several weeks for details of the plans.

The Turkish government has now published a draft law, under which the subsidies would be paid throughout the summer season, with applications to be made through one of the ten largest incoming agencies.

However, there are complex conditions for the subsidies. They only apply to flights by planes with 100 seats or more. At least 11 passengers of the relevant incoming agency must be on the flight, regardless of which tour operator they booked with. The $6,000 subsidy is then divided up according to the number of passengers whose agency has the right to apply for funding.

The new rules were welcomed by major tour operators in Germany. “The conditions are now very clear. It’s a basis that we can plan on. I think we should be able to pass on part of the saving to consumers in the form of price reductions,” said Deniz Ugur, CEO of Bentour Reisen. Similarly, Songül Göktas-Rosati, managing director of Thomas Cook brand Öger Tours, added: “We welcome the decision of the tourism ministry and are pleased with the support, since as tour operators we bring the guests to Turkey. It’s a good start.”

But airline were less happy about the U-turn which will benefit tour operators instead. “We’re pleased that we’ve been able to achieve an extension until September, but we would have liked a different structure for the support,” said leisure airline Sun Express. “But we will stay active and try to argue for support from which the whole industry benefits.”

Meanwhile, leisure airlines are cutting back capacity to Turkey this summer in response to the slump in bookings, forcing tour operators to reschedule flight times for booked passengers. Experts predict a 25% drop in German visitor numbers to Antalya this summer.

Condor, for example, has cut about one third of its capacity to Turkey this summer but Thomas Cook and Neckermann Reisen are aiming to ensure that passengers can still fly on the same day as they originally booked. DER Touristik, with a 20% reduction in flight capacity, and TUI, which is rerouting TUI fly services, are also trying to keep the flight time changes as minimal as possible.

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