Somewhere in a newsroom in the UK:
“Right … We can’t tap celebrities’ phones anymore, we can’t pay coppers for leads on crime stories, they’ve sacked Clarkson and readers have cottoned on to us making up rubbish about the weather. So how else can we sell papers?”
“Dunno boss … I suppose it depends what else people care about.”
“Has Prince Harry dressed up in anything recently?”
“Nope … He seems to have learned.”
“Jeez, there must be something …”
“Holidays boss. It’s what most people are thinking about right now …”
“Yeah… Don’t we bloody know it. They all bugger off out of the country and stop buying the papers. So…?”
“Well, couldn’t we find something about holidays? Are there any firms struggling who might leave them stranded at airports? Are there any exotic diseases people can catch which we could do a health scare tale on? What about ISIS?”
“What about them?”
“Well they’ve already killed a few westerners. We could flam up Foreign Office advice about travel to the Med? Turkey’s nearest to Syria; a lot of Brits go there…
“What’s the current terrorism threat level?”
“Yeah … But the threat level here is severe.”
“I know that boss – but most people don’t. They feel safe enough at home but tell ‘em there’s a high threat of terrorism in the resort they’re heading to for their two weeks in the sun and they might buy the papers to find out more…”
“D’you know, I reckon you might be onto something. Get a quote off some PR at the FO press office and cobble something together. Let’s hint ISIS is thinking of bombing a few beaches or lobbing some grenades into hotel lobbies. They’re not exactly going to sue us are they?
“What about the hotels and resorts? They’re not going to be happy….
“Who cares? What can Johnny Foreigner do about it? Besides, it might mean a few more people stay at home, which will mean more newspaper sales, which could just keep us from making a few more of our lot redundant.”
“I suppose … We’ll get onto it then.”
Of course, there’s no way of knowing if a conversation like that ever really took place but, when you compare the real facts with what was printed in the British media a few weeks ago, it’s not all that difficult to imagine.
But then Tunisia happened of course and, suddenly all the stories that seemed to be founded on nothing more than speculation and a few half-truths suddenly became prophetic – enough to be presented many times as gospel in the wake of the attack.
But the fact remains that the Foreign Office hadn’t changed its advice on travel to Turkey before the atrocity – and still hasn’t. So just where did the Daily Express and, later, the Daily Mail get their information on the county’s heightened security risk from? Would the UK security services really reveal their hand to just a few journalists in the run-up to a terrorist attack without making some form of statement themselves? Probably not. It’s also very unlikely that ISIS has a direct line to any newsroom in the UK or would warn them of an impending attack either.
It’s hard to fathom a motive for either paper running a series of stories apparently designed to undermine the Mediterranean tourism industry and the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of people who rely on it for their income. Even if it’s true, why should we care?
Well, living in Turkey and watching early season optimism gradually shrivel up and die hasn’t been easy. The negative press has combined with unseasonal weather in the first half of the summer to create a perfect storm which has decimated the tourism industry in south-west Anatolia with some businesses recording a 60% decline in just 12 months.
That’s not going to be easy to recoup and there are now thousands of families wondering just how they’re going to pay their bills – and these people are not just “Muslims”; they’re my friends. Last year, we were privileged to be invited to attend a village celebration to mark the close of the tourist season where we enjoyed a meal and were asked for nothing more than our company in return. If things continue as they are, I very much doubt there will be much to celebrate this October.
It’s frustrating that there’s little we can do to help. We can’t even offer any cast iron guarantees that the resorts around us are safe from ISIS attack. However, what we can say is, if you are planning a holiday in Turkey at any time this year, you will be welcomed just as warmly – if not more so than usual – and, as long as you remain clear of the border with Syria, there’s every chance you will enjoy a memorable, peaceful and utterly relaxing time in the company of truly hospitable people who want nothing more than for you to feel part of the family – so much so, you will have to come back time and time again.