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Are Brits avoiding or returning to Turkey?

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Big holiday companies offer a contrasting picture on whether holidaymakers are prepared to bring their much-sought tourist pounds

British holiday operators were giving mixed messages on Turkey this week, simultaneously claiming rising and falling demand.

TUI Group, the owner of Thomson, said its bookings to Turkey and Egypt had suffered and that holidaymakers were preferring long-haul trips and cruises instead.

But Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of rival Thomas Cook, said there were “early signs” that customers were beginning to return to the two eastern Mediterranean countries.

“Customers’ appetite to go abroad on holiday this summer is good across all our markets,” Mr Fankhauser said in a press statement on Monday.

“After a slow start to the season and a tough year in 2016, we’re seeing early signs that customers are beginning to go back to Turkey and Egypt,” he added.

And yet a trading performance update published by TUI on Wednesday repeatedly highlighted the group’s strong sales despite “lower demand” for Turkey on the 2016/17 winter period.

And Neil Wilson, a senior analyst at ETX Capital, told the Mirror: “Thomas Cook is doing better than last year – at least that’s what today’s trading statement tries to suggest.

“But it’s hard to distract from what continues to be a very tough operating climate for a UK tourist business.

“This ten per cent rise in group bookings is really down to a very weak comparable period last year when the market was beset by geopolitical troubles.”

Last year foreign visitor numbers to Turkey plummeted to their lowest level since 2007 in the wake of political violence and repeated bomb attacks in hotspots like Istanbul.

Visitors from western countries have dropped in particular. January 2017 saw a 81.5% rise in the number of tourists coming from Russia, although this increase is partly linked to a political crisis between Turkey and Russia that affected visitor numbers in 2016.