Tourists fear rip off but locals say not possible .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ANTALYA - With the opening of the tourism season, the subject of 'price discrimination' is back on the agenda on the southern coast of Turkey. Tourists complain they are charged more than Turks for the same product or service, but authorities say all the necessary precautions have been taken.

Many tourism experts say the best way for Turkey to advertise abroad would be to promote the positive impressions left on those who have visited the country, rather than to spend millions of dollars to appear on billboards, magazines and televisions.

It would be equally dangerous if just the opposite happens, though. It is possible to shatter the reputation of a country with the negative experiences and sayings of people, and Turkey seems to be standing on that edge in some ways, say some authorities.

Richard Hughes, a 38-year-old lawyer from Britain, says he and his family chose Turkey and Antalya as their holiday destination this year since they heard a lot about the country. But besides the natural beauties and the quality service offered, what he heard from his friends about Turkey also included the high possibility of being overcharged especially by the local tradesmen and taxi drivers.

"I do appreciate the concern of the shop owners as soon as I step inside to buy something," he said. "But I also know that most probably I am given a higher price than an ordinary Turk for the same product because I do not know the normal prices."

Shop owners upset to be seen as ’cheaters’
The local shop owners, on the other hand, state their concerns about these assertions. "It is really disturbing to be called a cheater. Most of us just try to do our job without discriminating between the Turkish customers and the tourists", said Veli Bolat, owner of a bag shop in Antalya’s Işıklar district. "As in every occupation, there are both those who are honest and those who are not."

The tourists tend to think that restaurants and taxi drivers also overcharge them.

Christine Lewis, a 46-year-old housewife, is among those who think that restaurants charge tourists in euros rather than in Turkish Liras and overlook the difference between the currencies. "They possibly think that I am richer, so I should pay more to equalize the accounts," she laughed.

"Moreover, it is widely known that taxi drivers tend to charge tourists the night rate although it is day time, all over the world, and Turkey is not an exception for that" she said.

Bargaining system rather than taxi meter
Severely criticizing the claims that the taxis in Antalya overcharge tourists, Mehmet Ali Alkan, chairman of Antalya Chamber of Taxi and Automobile Drivers, said they often change their working style completely on demand from the tourists, and use the bargaining system instead of taxi meter.

"Contrary to allegations, even during the night some tourists will ask the taxi driver for the day rate. They even bargain on this tariff.

"Our drivers do not reject it most of the time in an attempt to service our customers in the best possible way. Earning money is a secondary motivation."

Criticizing that some Turkish travel agencies and guides warn tourists before they arrive in the country that taxi drivers and shop owners overcharge, Alkan said they employ a guide at every taxi stand who can negotiate between the driver and the tourist. This way it is neither possible nor ethical to deceive the tourists.

Another place where price discrimination was obvious until recently was at museums. Often Turkish visitors paid the normal fee, while tourists were charged more for just being a tourist.

"Now, however, entrance fees for museums are standard for all visitors regardless of nationality," said an official from the Antalya Museum. "People below the age of 17 do not need to pay any entrance fee and there is also the ’museum card,’ which is a valid pass for one year at all museums around Turkey. It costs 20 Turkish Liras."