30 January 2016, Istanbul bombing attempt foiled by ready police; tourism sector suffers, regardless

08 February, 2016 Security

On 30 January 2016 at 10:30 pm, Istanbul police shot a terrorist suspect who refused to stop for questioning near the Ritz Carlton hotel, reports Today’s Zaman. Police reportedly found in his bag an explosive device and detonated it in place 20-30 minutes later, reports the prolific travel magazine, eTurbonews (eTN).

eTN’s President and Publisher, Mr. Juergen Steinmetz, was in the Ritz Carlton at the time of the incident. He heard what sounded like two loud explosions. Upon inquiring about the event, he was told that police identified the suspicious man, then a noncompliance altercation of some kind ensued, and police shot him. They then sealed off the roads adjacent to the Ritz Carlton and the nearby BJK İnönü Stadium in order for ordnance disposal to destroy the bomb.

While the suspected terrorist did not attack the hotel, it happened quite close to the hotel. eTN’s pictures of the police cordon were taken from the Ritz Carlton, and the angle of the photos has the police activity on the streets directly below the hotel.

Incidents such as this and successful attacks in Istanbul like the 12 January 2016 suicide bombing in Sultanahmet Square that killed 13 and wounded 14 have done severe damage to Turkey’s tourism sector, reports The Examiner. The friction between Turkey and Russia over military operations in Syria has added to the difficulties.

Tourism in Turkey was down 8.3% in 2015, and investments in its hotel sector fell 26%. Five cruise lines have recently dropped Turkey as a port of call because of terrorism.

In response to this downturn that is likely to worsen in the first half of 2016, Turkish Minister of Tourism Mahir Ünal told a global travel conference on 4 February that, “We need to defend our freedom of travel and spirit of tourism as part of the fight against terrorism, which aims to prevent our freedom by creating fear and security concerns.”

The police shooting near the Istanbul Ritz Carlton demonstrates three points. First, quite obviously, Turkish police were effective in stopping this terrorist threat. Either they had intelligence on this individual and trailed him, or beat officers were highly trained and alert enough to detect terrorist threat behavior. Additionally, civilians might have noticed the threat and informed the police. Either way, Turkey’s security regime worked here.

Second, this action by police might have saved the hotel from being attacked. While the bomber could have been seeking any target in the city, he was, nevertheless, near a major hotel and tourist area, and global terrorist attack trends at the moment entail targeting soft targets such as tourist spots and hotels. On the surface, then, this case can be used as an example of how alert state security forces can help protect hotels. They can be stationed near them in greater numbers, and if they are specially trained to detect terrorist behavior and foil attacks, so much the better.

Third, as effective as Turkish security was in this case, it cannot save the country’s tourism and hotel sector. A few terror attacks can drive tourists away from a country, wrecking its hotel sector by default. A single tactical security success will not bring them back. Turkey will have to secure the entire country from terrorism, specifically the ISIS brand of terrorism, before its tourism sector recovers. Diminishing tourism means continued damage to Turkey’s overall economy until the problem is more effectively dealt with.

Sources and further reading:

Tourism minister calls for defense of freedom of travel amid downturn,” Anadolu Agency, 4 February 2016.

Police shoot man suspected of carrying bomb in central İstanbul,” Today’s Zaman, 30 January 2016.

Bomb scare in Istanbul ended after explosion,” eTurbonews.com, 30 January 2016.

Another blow for Istanbul as bomb explodes outside Ritz-Carlton Hotel,” Examiner.com, 30 January 2016.

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