While an attempt to oust Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan played out on Friday night, Ya’lla Tours’ guests waited in their hotel rooms.
The Portland, Ore.-based company had 39 customers in Turkey during the coup attempt, 14 of whom were in Istanbul, where military personnel involved in the coup seized two bridges and gathered in Taksim Square. The remaining guests were in Cappadocia and Kusadasi.
“The whole thing started at 11 p.m. Friday night and people were already in the rooms,” said Ya’lla president Ronen Paldi.
Ya’lla staff contacted each party and asked them to remain in their hotel rooms overnight, assuring them that they would be back in touch in the morning.
In Istanbul, he added, Ya’lla’s clients heard noise and commotion in the streets, but they were away from Taksim Square, where protesters demonstrated against the coup and participants in the uprising were later arrested.
On Saturday morning, “people woke up and had their breakfast. We said, ‘Let’s continue,’” Paldi said. “The roads were open. Everything was open.”
While none of the company’s guests in Turkey opted to cancel their tours and return home, the FAA’s flight ban would have made arranging transportation out of Turkey very costly, Paldi said.
“They have a lot of trust in our judgment, and they know we won’t put them in any harm’s way.”
Paldi said Ya’lla’s upcoming tours to Turkey will continue as planned, and that at the moment no changes have been made to the itineraries. No guests have canceled thus far.
“The biggest concern is new bookings,” he added. “People who have booked already, they will continue with their plans. But people who are due to make new reservations, they are taking a deep breath and waiting to see what’s happening.”
Terrorist attacks on the airport and popular tourist areas in the last year have had a dramatic effect on tourism, Paldi said. “Let’s face it, a coup in a country doesn’t happen every month or every year. It will take time to recover.”
Ya’lla’s president himself is undeterred. “We are having a fam trip to Turkey that we set up a month ago,” he said. “It’s already half full, and I’m planning to go with them.”