Decline in COVID-19 cases boosts morale in Turkey’s tourism industry

A drop in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Turkey, as expected since the tightest lockdown to date, has dramatically improved morale in the local tourism sector as they predict a higher number of holidaymakers for the next summer season.

Tacettin Özden, vice president of the Federation of Hoteliers of Turkey, told Anadolu (AA) agency that hotels are ready for the new season, armed with the experience of fighting the epidemic they have acquired last year.

Stating that they have started welcoming tourists from Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania this season, Özden said these are top markets for now given stagnation in other European countries. currently.

Everyone should fight together to reduce the number of cases, Özden said, and if we can achieve the goal of reducing the number of new daily cases below 5,000, as determined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, European countries will withdraw Turkey from their countries with travel restrictions. lists.

The EU’s current green list has just seven countries – Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand – plus China if Beijing agrees to reciprocate.

As for Russia, one of Turkey’s most important tourist markets, the number of tourists coming from the country to the Turkish Mediterranean resort town of Antalya has doubled from a year ago despite the decision to Moscow last month to stop flights.

Antalya hosted some 445,671 foreign visitors from January to April this year, and tourists from Russia alone accounted for some 296,131 of the overall figure, according to data from the Antalya Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism compiled on Wednesday. .

Millions of Russian tourists flock to Turkey every year, and Moscow’s decision last month to halt flights from April 15 to June 1, citing growing cases of COVID-19, has dealt a heavy blow to the country. tourism industry.

President Erdoğan’s main adviser and presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın and Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy were in Russia on Monday to discuss issues, including tourism.

Stating that he observed that those who wish to take a vacation are not afraid to come to Turkey, Özden added that they are currently in contact with holidaymakers who have previously come to the country and who have stayed in their hotels.

There are reservations from those who have been here before, he said, as well as those who did not come last year and have transferred their reservations to this year.

There is pent-up demand, Özden noted, but many people wait until the last minute to make reservations, as everything can change in an instant with new restrictions and action decisions imposed by governments around the world. .

“The hotels are completely ready. The industry is very ready and very dynamic, ”Özden also noted.

Özden further pointed out that they believe the number of bookings will increase much faster as the number of cases decreases.

“If the number of cases goes down, we think the season will recover around mid-June and it will be a better season than 2020.”

The tourism ministry has a target of 20 billion dollars (167.34 billion TL) in tourism revenue and hopes to welcome 30 million foreign visitors this year, he reiterated, adding that he believes that “we can reach these numbers if we go back to normalization. before it’s too late.”

Turkey on Wednesday recorded 11,533 new coronavirus infections and 233 daily deaths from COVID-19, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

After setting back-to-back records with a daily case count reaching 60,000, Ankara on April 29 imposed a total 17-day lockdown that crippled life across the country. However, the measures proved to be effective as the number of daily infections fell rapidly.

As daily cases fell by as much as 75%, Ankara on Monday decided to ease some of the restrictions in what it called a “period of gradual normalization.”

The measures include a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on weekdays and a full lockdown on weekends.

Theaters, gymnasiums, swimming pools and similar venues will remain closed, while restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve deliveries and take out orders.

Introduced during the total lockdown, the ban on intercity travel has also been relaxed. People are only allowed to travel between cities by car when the curfew is not in effect, but travel by bus or plane is allowed at any time.

Tourism Association chairman Bülent Ilbahar in the Aegean resort town of Kuşadası also said that after 17 days of complete closure, hopes have been raised as the number of cases has dropped significantly, although he did not achieve the desired goal.

We expect momentum in July, August and September, Ilhabar said: “If we do business in those three months, at least we’ll deduct our expenses. Some of our hotels will open at the beginning of June. We are ready and we are waiting for our guests. We hope that the hotels will be full during these three months. “

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