A diplomatic spat between the United States and Turkey has spun out of control and resulted in the suspension of tourist visas in both directions.
Tensions have been growing between the two countries for the past several years. Among other issues, Turkey has accused the United States of harboring a cleric that it claims helped orchestrate a failed coup, and the United States is angry that Turkey arrested a Turkish worker at its embassy. The result is that non-immigrant visas have been halted.
Tourists who already obtained visas will be able to use them, but those seeking a new visa using an American passport will be denied for now. Americans attempting to secure an electronic visa through the official Turkish system will encounter this message.
Turkish Airlines will refund airfare or waive change fees to passengers who cannot obtain visas. Travelers whose itineraries require connecting flights in Istanbul will not be affected.
The stoppage is an unwelcome disaster for Turkish tourism, which has already been suffering from fears of terrorism and the cancellation by cruise lines of Turkish ports of call. In 2015, more than 88,000 Americans visited the country, but last year, barely 35,000 did. This year, the number will be even more dismal.
Other countries, including Germany, are having their own rows with the newly hardening Turkish government.
The United States is currently without a confirmed ambassador to Turkey; its previous representative was confirmed in September for an imminent transfer to the same role in Afghanistan, and the Trump Administration has not named a successor.
It's a terrible outcome for the Turkish people, who in our experience have always been welcoming hosts, and it's disappointing news for Americans, too, who will be denied the opportunity to explore one of the most historic and gorgeous places in the world. Both sides claim they'd like to work out their differences, and let's hope they do. Until then, tourism to Turkey will be impossible.