Is it safe to travel to Turkey and are flights canceled?

plane - Greg Bajor/Getty Images

plane – Greg Bajor/Getty Images

Southeast Turkey was hit early Monday morning by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. The FCDO is currently recommending that only emergency vehicles enter the affected areas, including Gaziantep, the area first hit by the earthquake, and nine other neighboring provinces: Hatay, Osmaniye, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Sanliurfa, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Adana and Malatya.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in Turkey, which borders on two major fault lines. However, the magnitude 7.8 earthquake is the strongest to hit the country in more than eight decades and has claimed more than 11,000 lives so far – 8,574 in Turkey and about 2,662 in Syria.

Currently, the FCDO suggests travelers to follow the information and advice of local authorities and tour operators. The government currently advises against all travel to areas within 10 km of the Syrian border, and all essential travel to Sirnak and Hakkari province.

The department’s general advice on earthquakes says: “Many parts of Turkey are subject to earthquakes. You should familiarize yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow the advice of local authorities.”

The ten worst affected areas are not considered popular destinations for holidaymakers.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, the CEO of The Advantage Travel Partnership, says: “Turkish tourism hubs are located at a considerable distance from the city of Gaziantep and the surrounding areas most affected by the earthquake. The southern port of Antalya is more than 800 km away and Istanbul is more than 1,100 km away.”

It is therefore probably safe to travel to most parts of Turkey at this time.

It is also not a popular time for tourists. Zina Bencheikh, Managing Director at travel company Intrepid, notes that “it is currently the winter low season for tourism in Turkey. Figures usually pick up in early March.

Are flights to Turkey cancelled?

No flights or packages from Great Britain have been cancelled.

British Airways, easyJet and Tui have all confirmed they will continue to fly to the country, with the Tui noting that Antalya resorts are not affected. Popular holiday destinations in Turkey, such as Cappadocia and the Aegean coast, are unlikely to be badly affected.

Turkish Airlines, one of the world’s largest airlines, canceled some flights from Sunday to today due to entry and exit from Istanbul’s two airports. It advises passengers to check the flight details page for more information.

Adana Airport in the south of the country is closed, although for British tourists it is usually only accessible via Istanbul or Bodrum. Gaziantep Airport, Hatay Airport and Ceyhan Seaport are also closed to all flights except emergency flights.

Istanbul Airport functions as a major hub, with more than 50 airlines using the airport for layovers. It is currently operating normally, although footage shared online shows thousands of aid workers leaving the airport for affected regions.

Thus, traditional holidays to Turkey remain largely unaffected, although there are clearly far greater concerns for the country’s citizens at the moment. As for Syria, the FCDO advises against traveling to the country anyway, describing it as “volatile and dangerous”.

Will I get my money back for my holiday to Turkey?

Unless FCDO advice changes, most currently booked holidays to Turkey are non-refundable. Those planning to travel to the southeast of the country should contact their tour operators.

“Southeast Turkey is far away from popular tourist areas such as Istanbul, Cappadocia and the Turkish Riviera,” says Zina Bencheikh, adding “we expect most departures will be unaffected.”

For those who already have a booking for the summer – or were planning a trip – Julia Lo Bue-Said recommends taking precautions. “We recommend booking through a local travel agent for further advice and support as they will be there to provide expert guidance every step of the way through your journey,” she says.

Is it appropriate to travel to Turkey?

While it may be possible to travel to Turkey right now, it may not feel appropriate. Dr. Lauren Traczykowski, an academic specializing in disaster ethics at Aston University, says the issue will remain exciting for some time to come.

In the short term, she says, “we need to make sure airports don’t waste resources supporting tourists” and avoid travel to the immediate vicinity of the disaster.

As summer approaches, tourists need to make sure they’re traveling for the “right reasons,” she says. “Tourism will contribute to Turkey’s economy; this is helpful for the country’s long-term stability. Traveling to the regions not affected by the quake – places like Ankara and Istanbul – could be helpful after immediate response operations are completed.”

“However, the economy should never take precedence over the basic needs of those affected by a natural disaster and the resulting disaster. Touring the affected area itself would be unethical – it dehumanizes those affected and exacerbates existing vulnerability.”

Intrepid has launched an emergency appeal for travelers to consider donating, with all funds going to the Australian Red Cross. The company will match any donation up to £58,000 and will donate all profits from trips to Turkey booked through the end of April.

Zina Bencheikh is clear: “If you keep your holiday booking and travel to Türkiye, your tourist dollars will go back to local communities and businesses. As the country rebuilds, visiting Türkiye is one of the best ways to support the economy.”

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