While the current administration of TÜRSAB (Association of Turkish Travel Agencies) strongly opposes the draft, labeling it as a 'revenge law', there are agents who oppose and support such a change within the agency.

We share Savaş Daş's special report for TTN readers...

Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, has initiated changes to the Law No. 1618 of the Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB). Ersoy, who has reportedly revised the draft law several times, presented its final version at a meeting held at the Atatürk Cultural Center to some travel agency owners. Following the meeting, Ali Bilir, former Vice President of TÜRSAB, shared his notes in a video. According to these notes, TÜRSAB will be divided into at least five different unions, with the authority over new documents and audits transferred to the Ministry. The unions will not be able to establish foundations or companies, and 1000 agents can come together to establish new unions. The agency document fee will be 350,000 lira, and the dues will be 2.5% of this amount. So, how do travel agencies view this draft law, and what are the positive and negative aspects of the regulation?

Moris Kohen, owner of Moris Tourism and President of KURAP: I think there will be a serious cacophony

We agree that TÜRSAB must definitely not be disbanded. As an umbrella organization, TÜRSAB should always be there. In our era, there is always a need for civil society organizations. Hence, associations and platforms are necessary units to assist TÜRSAB, and no one opposes this. Diversity of opinions is good, but it should not turn into cacophony, therefore it needs to be coordinated internally, and TÜRSAB has been successfully doing this.

We may not be satisfied with TÜRSAB’s past, present, or future management, we may be oppositional, but that's another matter. Just because we are unhappy with a country's government, we can't talk about splitting that country. You oppose, change the government, do not elect the current president in the next election, etc...

It seems to me that those in favor of splitting TÜRSAB are mostly those who are oppositional to the current administration. I think this is a very wrong move. Plus, in the matter of these four upcoming unions, there is no obligation regarding who will join where. The definition of tour operator is also tied only to turnover. However, there is a definition of tour operator in the world. Currently, you are above a certain turnover and you do tour operating, health tourism, and also issue tickets. When a customer of an agency member of the tour operator union is aggrieved, who will the customer go to? If they go to the tour operator union, there is no expert on this matter, if they go to the union of agencies selling plane tickets, the agency is not a member there... Therefore, I think a serious cacophony will arise here.

We established KURAP (Corporate Agencies Platform) not to oppose TÜRSAB, but to help it. Yes, we are not satisfied with everything TÜRSAB does, but we always need this institution. Our era is advancing very fast, and of course, TÜRSAB needs a new law. However, in this form, a tourism without TÜRSAB, without this superstructure, is unthinkable. In this situation, we think it will be difficult for agencies to seek their rights and they may even be aggrieved.

Hamit Kuk, owner of Passo Tour: There's no logical reason

I read the 4th version of the draft law. I don't know if this document has been amended later. Therefore, my assessment will only be based on the document I read.

Thousands of people protested mass tourism in Spain Thousands of people protested mass tourism in Spain

According to the version I read; it paves the way for TÜRSAB to be divided into five under the name of union. We are talking about unions that can be divided into at least five parts, including Tour Operators, Health Tourism, Hajj and Umrah, Plane Ticket Sellers, those operating in the same or different fields with at least a thousand members, and the existing TÜRSAB.

Hajj and Umrah agencies have been trying to separate from TÜRSAB since 2018. They even established an association just for this purpose. However, I have not encountered any desire to separate in other branches until today.

I can understand, though not agree, with the desires of Hajj and Umrah agencies to separate. Because the sensitivities of Hajj and Umrah tourism are different, quotas are limited, including rules and regulations determined by both domestic and foreign authorities such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj. However, there is no reason that necessitates the separation of other branches, including health tourism.

Some might argue the same reasons for health tourism. However, the working principles and procedures of these travel agencies, certified by the Ministry of Health, are clear. Ultimately, they conduct their operations within the framework of the laws of the Republic of Türkiye.

On the other hand, even if these separations are considered as a type of specialization, we will not see this in practice. For example, even if health tourism agencies separate from TÜRSAB and form a different union, they will continue to do the jobs of other travel agencies. They will be able to organize cultural tours, sell plane tickets, etc. This will also apply to other unions. Therefore, we cannot talk about specialization here. Then, what is the need to separate and form a new union?

I am of the opinion that there is no logical reason for the disintegration of a union established in 1972 with 15,000 members into at least five parts, turning into tiny unions. At best, it can be a divide and rule strategy. Because it's easier to interfere in the internal affairs of small and weak institutions, to direct and control them as desired. Such things are loved by all those in power.

What surprises me is that some of my colleagues fall for such traps, swayed by the carrots shown to them."

Delicias Tourism owner İskender Çayla: The elected administration should be consulted

"I am not fully informed about the details of the draft law. Recently, TÜRSAB called for a meeting, but I could not attend as I was abroad. It is said that the Ministry has been discussing the law in many places, but in my opinion, it is not very healthy to bring this law to a point without discussing certain issues with the elected administration.

I would prefer TÜRSAB to continue with a healthier structure. Of course, there is no end to the division of TÜRSAB into different unions. Many issues may arise in the future. Topics that are valid today may lose their relevance in the future. The world and the tourism industry are changing. Many professions and ways of doing tourism that exist today may change in 15 years. So, according to what are these 5 topics determined? I do not find this correct and frankly, I think there is another purpose behind it.

If there is to be a regulation related to TÜRSAB, then the members of TÜRSAB should decide on it.

Towards the end of December, there was a sudden price adjustment related to Topkapı Palace. The Harem was included and a price of nearly 50 euros emerged. There certainly needed to be a separate entrance for Hagia Sophia, but again a different figure emerged. Everyone is trying to learn the implementation on site. Where to get the ticket, which application to download, which currency to consider... Everyone is trying to learn by asking each other, and the Ministry does not make a statement. A different place emerged, not the usual places where museum tickets were bought...

I think it would be more appropriate for the Ministry to be effective in these matters. My customers pay 50 euros to visit Topkapı, but many agencies have already removed Topkapı from their programs. This is a very high amount on a global scale. Also, the area visited in Hagia Sophia does not really warrant a 25 euro museum visit. It's been 5 days since it started, and according to the information we get from our guides, visitors find 25 euros too much for the area visited. It doesn't last long. The Ministry of Tourism could do something beneficial here.

Prontotour Chairman of the Board Ali Onaran: I support the change

The most important point for me in this law is the beautiful filling of the gaps with regulations. Tour operating is very important for me, and the draft foresees tour operators having a separate union. What needs clarity here is the issue of insurance. Just like in all developed tourism countries, tour operators in Türkiye need to move to a real insurance system. The Tour Operators Union needs to ensure this soon. I heard verbally that preliminary studies have been done on this.

I have no fundamental objection to the legal change. In countries like Italy, Germany, there is not just one union. There are unions for different companies. Having pilgrimage and umrah within TÜRSAB means nothing. They have been saying 'let's get out' for years anyway. Agencies will join the union that pertains to their main focus, but for example, pilgrimage and umrah agencies will also be able to sell tickets and organize tours aside from their main business. These were discussed.

On the other hand, it should be mandatory for tour operators to be in the tour operators' union. The minister said, 'It's not mandatory, anyone can be anywhere they want.' I said, 'Membership in the tour operators' union should be mandatory for tour operators.' So Prontotour can't escape from being a tour operator. The Minister also said that these will be regulated with regulations.

Therefore, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will establish the unions in the first year. Temporary administrations will be formed in the unions, and then elections will be held. Just as TGA holds elections in 36 regions, elections will no longer be held at just one point.

I don't want to look at it from afar. In my opinion, if applied correctly, results can be achieved."

Editor: Mehmet Güneli