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TRNC threatens legal Action over Booking Website Boycott

TRNC threatens legal Action

over Booking Website Boycott

The Turkish Cypriot Minister of Tourism is set to begin a legal attack against the world’s largest hotel reservations website.

The spat comes after scores of hotels in Northern Cyprus were gradually pulled from the top-rated Booking.com website after concerns that illegally occupied Greek Cypriot properties were being advertised.

Booking_dot_comNow, with just a handful of hotels in Lapta and Kyrenia remaining on the website, tourism officials claim the potential loss from online revenue runs into millions of euros.

“I have just spoken to Booking.com officials and told them our intention to take legal action,” Faiz Sucuoglu, the Turkish Cypriot official responsible for tourism, told local media.

Actual hotel options in the north range from over 130 luxury hotels, apartments, guesthouses, boutique hotels and even eco hotels, but just sixteen properties – all on land which is ‘certified’ as being of Turkish Cypriot ownership – are listed on the website.

With a dwindling presence on Booking.com, those attempting to arrange their own DIY vacations to the north online face a dearth of accommodation options.

“The continuing ban on the world’s biggest hotel marketing website is unlawful. We have instructed lawyers to prepare legal documents to have them served on Booking.com,” Sucuoglu said.

The website deals with more than 900,000 room nights reservations each day, with over 2,800 properties being listed from the Republic of Cyprus [South Cyprus]…..

In a statement sent to the Sunday Mail, Booking.com acknowledged ‘certain regulations’ had prevented some properties being listed.

“Because Booking.com is a European-based company, we are subject to the regulations of other EU member states and are therefore prohibited from doing business with certain properties in Northern Cyprus.”

A spokesman for Booking.com would not comment on the threatened legal action, but added: “At Booking.com, our mission is to connect people from all over the world with incredible stays in every corner of the globe, including in Northern Cyprus.”

“As such, we are keen to continue growing and supporting our current base of accommodation partners there, just as we do throughout the rest of the world.”

The threat of a lawsuit has raised fears that action could have damaging a long-term impact for the tourism sector, which according to estimates from 2014, contributes nine per cent to gross domestic product.

Escape beach

Escape beach in North Cyprus

Tourists from Turkey, the United Kingdom and Germany make up the biggest share of visitors to the north, with a marked increase of arrivals from Middle Eastern countries and central Europe also having been recorded recently.

Orhan Tolun, who heads the ‘Cyprus Turkish Hoteliers Union’ said that the threat of a lawsuit has caused dismay among some of his members.

“How can we force a private company to advertise places they choose not to advertise? Is it not the company’s prerogative?”

With more than half of holidaymakers from the UK dumping travel agents in favour of organising trips themselves, online accommodation websites are seen as key players in the future of tourism.

Even though some Northern Cyprus hotels are listed on smaller portals like Travel Republic and Kayak, Booking.com remains the market leader, offering travellers hotel deals in most locations around the world in forty different languages.

One of the properties removed from the site in 2011 was “Edremit’s Hideaway Club Hotel”.

Co-owner Mustafa Topcu said he was left ‘absolutely fuming’ at the decision.

Book onlinePoor digital presence of hotels in Northern Cyprus, with many establishments operating badly functioning websites without the option to book rooms, has also hindered development.

The recent campaign by Greek Cypriots living in London to have adverts promoting Northern Cyprus removed from buses and tube stations in the capital is also likely to hit the sector.

The National Federation of Cypriots in the UK has written to the mayor of London, London transport department, the foreign secretary and the shadow foreign secretary to complain about the holiday adverts.

Barnet Cllr Dan Thomas said these adverts on public transport in the British capital were insensitive.

“The adverts are insensitive and should be removed without delay. How would you like it if someone kicked you out of your home town then advertised it to the world as a place to go on holiday? The timing is also insensitive, when negotiations are taking place to reunify the island,” he said.

Source: Nathan Morley for Cyprus Mail