COVID: Turkish tourism sector hopes for strict lockdown | Europe | News and events from the continent | DW

The daily number of new COVID-19 infections in Turkey rose from over 60,000 to 43,000 last week. But the government is no longer taking any risks. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a strict “full lockdown” that will remain in effect from April 29 to May 17.

Many shops, restaurants and cafes will be closed and Turks will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential groceries or for medical reasons. They will need to get permission if they want to travel between cities.

But foreign tourists will be exempt from these rules. Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said the “most visited and important museums and archaeological sites in the country” will remain open.

“In some ways, being a tourist in Turkey is beneficial,” Ersoy said on Tuesday.

The idea is that a strict lockdown now will save the season later. Turkey is especially popular with tourists from Russia and other parts of Europe, including Germany.

The country’s economy is already in crisis and resorts and hotels on the Mediterranean and the Aegean coast cannot afford another year like 2020. Last year the number of tourists fell by some 15, 9 million people, according to the national statistics agency, and the tourism sector suffered losses of 8.3 billion euros (10.1 billion dollars). Incomes have fallen by 65% ​​and more than 320,000 people have lost their jobs.

Resort owners hope Russians will return

Losses were particularly high in Antalya, an extremely popular tourist destination on the south coast. Instead of the average 15 million annual visitors, only 3 million tourists showed up.

Kemal Sahin, the head of Sahinler Holding, which owns several hotels in the area, told DW that the first three months of 2021 have not been so bad. But now there was a risk of disaster due to the increase in the number of infections.

2020 has been a disaster for the Turkish tourism industry

“The revival that everyone was hoping for will not happen. Flights from Russia have been canceled until at least June 1,” he said. “If Russian tourists don’t come, everything will collapse.” In 2019, Russian and German visitors made up the bulk of tourists, respectively 7 million and 5 million.

Mehmet Isler, chairman of the Aegean Tourist Accommodation and Business Association, was also appalled. “We were counting on 30 million tourists this year. […] But then there were party conferences across the country in March and the number of infections skyrocketed. Now there are more restrictions because of COVID-19. Suddenly, our expectations and goals are gone. “

Tour operators believe the lockdown should have happened sooner

Kemal Sahin said the problems Germany and Russia are facing with their vaccination campaigns have been a big blow to this year’s tourist season.

“The complications have ruined our plans for the whole year. We hope that tourism resumes in June and that there will be no further setbacks,” he told DW.

He believes the decision to impose a full foreclosure was fair, even if it would cripple the entire economy, but said it came “too late”.

“If we had started earlier, we could start the season earlier,” he said.

“We must take the measures against the pandemic as seriously as possible now and make tourists understand that Turkey is a safe country,” Isler said. “Otherwise, we will find ourselves well below our targets for 2021.”

This article has been adapted from Turkish and German

About Ariella McGuire

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