Turkish Minute

$400,000 in fines imposed for overcharging tourists in Istanbul

A tourist takes a selfie as Suleymaniya mosque is seen in the background on March 1, 2018 at Karakoy district during snowy day in Istanbul. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

In the first half of this year more than TL 2 million ($400,000) in fines were imposed on individuals and companies that were found to be overcharging tourists in İstanbul, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the report, in the first six months of 2018 large-scale inspections were carried out on travel agencies, bars, nightclubs and other tourism-related businesses in İstanbul to tackle misconduct in the tourism sector.

Conducted upon instructions from the İstanbul Governor’s Office and with the participation of several relevant agencies, the inspections targeted the overcharging of tourists, the directing of tourists to specific businesses for commissions and illegal financial transactions for the purposes of tax evasion as well as the illegal rental of private homes.

In the first half of 2018, 2,638 individuals who were found to be involved in overcharging practices were fined TL 2,055,503 ($400,000). The corresponding amount for all of 2017 was TL 2,925,979, the report said.

The agency also reported that the illegal daily rental of private homes was subject to inspection. Based on complaints, online surveillance and notices received by authorities, legal action was taken with regard to 13,010 homes illegally rented out, leading to TL 18,648,818 ($3,750,000) in administrative fines. According to the report, fines in this category amounted to TL 21,689,988 for the whole of last year.

Overcharging and the manipulation of tourists is a long-standing issue in the Turkish tourism sector, with many complaining on online blogs and tourism-themed websites about what is referred to as “tourist traps.” Misdirection by hotels on tours and restaurants, pressure to buy overpriced package deals and swindling by taxi drivers are commonplace practices that are mentioned on these platforms.

Frauds perpetrated by taxi drivers have recently appeared in the news. In April a taxi driver received a suspended sentence of one year, three months for overcharging a tourist from Saudi Arabia by unnecessarily prolonging a trip back in February, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News.

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