I've been reading that hotel bookings in Turkey are down on last year because the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have featured in the media as dangerous destinations. "So have we" you say. Facebook and Twitter are full of irate residents complaining that the gutter press has it in for our glorious home and is trying to ruin our holiday industry for the sake of a sensational headline. Except the newspaper I am reading was published in 1991, the inaugural issue of Bodrum Halicarnassus Free Newspaper, the first English paper in the area. So if you feel Turkey-bashing is a recent occurrence, think again. Those of us who have been knocking around these parts for a while are quite used to it. It used to annoy me and as the owner of a travel agency, worry me, but now I see it as a blessing. If it keeps away the sort of visitors who believe everything they read in the Dailies Mail and Express, long may they continue to slag off the country. You only have to take one look at the comments on the online versions of these rags to see that you would never want to share a airline departure lounge or stretch of beach with these folk.I'm glad I kept this little newspaper. It was my first step into journalism and as editor I had to write most of the articles and rope in friends to provide the rest. In the pre-internet age, it was an attempt to bridge the gap between the local Turkish newspapers and guide books. Just looking back 24 years puts into perspective how little the press really affects us and I hope it offers solace to those of you whose livelihoods depend on the foreign Pound, Dollar or Euro. I'm sure no one would suggest that the tourist industry in Turkey has been moribund for the past two and a half decades because of the mud thrown in its direction. Let's keep Turkey for the discerning traveller, who really appreciates the history and culture and let those who think Bodrum is a stone's throw from the Syrian border stay at home.
(Having said all this, vigilance is important, no one can anticipate where the next terrorist atrocity will occur. Whether you are in London, Istanbul, New York or Timbuktu, keep your eyes open. I was in a check in queue in Athens airport last week and a woman with a case came up to the Turkish couple behind me and asked them in broken English to look after her bag. They agreed and she disappeared. After a couple of minutes I asked them if they knew the woman. They didn't and I "suggested" in my school ma'am manner that agreeing to look after a stranger's bag was not a good idea. Their answer - if it blows up, it blows up. Every time I think I'm a fully integrated member of Turkish society, there is always a little reminder that I'm on a different planet. )