THE newly formed Association of Independent Turkish Tour Operators is urging the major players to join its crusade to boost tourism to the country.

Chairman and managing director of Anatolian Sky, Akin Koc said a combined effort from specialist and mass-market companies would add weight to AITTO’s campaign.

The group was formed in an attempt to rekindle tourist interest in the country following the earthquakes and terrorist threats in 1999 (Travel Weekly January 17).

Speaking after returning from talks with Turkish tourism minister Erkan Mumcu, Koc said: “The minister asked whether the major tour operators would join.

“I would like them to but even if they don’t become members we should co-operate with each other. I would be very happy to talk to them and would urge them to help us rebuild tourism to Turkey. The more operators are involved, the stronger we will be.”

Koc said he was encouraged by his meeting with Mumcu who has already agreed to a £4m promotional campaign in the UK.

Joint promotions between the tourist office and operators kicked off last week while national advertising will start on February 1.

The campaign comes as Koc admitted this year’s bookings to Turkey from the UK are 20% down on 1999.

“The campaign cannot start soon enough,” he said.

Meanwhile, Anatolian Sky has launched a new Portugal and Madeira brochure featuring city breaks and golfing holidays along with two centre and tailor-made packages.