The Coronavirus pandemic is still weighing hard on the global tourism industry. Some countries are severely affected by the pandemic, while some are positioned to cushion themselves with government support, adequate health care initiatives, and rapid vaccines rollout.
Turkey is among those countries that opened its borders for foreign tourists and is looking to resume travel and tourism to pre-pandemic days. The country underwent a significant loss in the tourism sector in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, it intends to touch new heights of tourism with heightened security and safety measures.
The Radisson Hotel Group aims to maintain its investment plans in Turkey with three new hotels to be established by 2025, with which the total number of its hotels in the country will reach 50. According to the company's representative, Turkey has every potential to observe an up to 30% increase in revenues during 2021. People are ready to resume travelling and turn toward countries that they deem are safest during this difficult time.
So, considering Turkey's efforts, a better year awaits its tourism sector compared to 2020. The figures may not touch the same rates as they did in 2019, but there will be an incline after a considerably high decline throughout 2020.
Turkish foreign ministry representative stated that Turkey is on its way to the normalization processes across all sectors, from economic to social and health care. The Covid-19 vaccination process is in full swing, and the country will go into full normalization very soon. These are positive signs as far as tourism is concerned.
Another thing that works in Turkey's favour is its unique credit and government employment system that supports the tourism industry. A similar system doesn't exist in African or Middle Eastern countries, but it does exist in European markets. Turkey, therefore, is more effectively carrying out destination marketing. It could open its borders and revive the ailing tourism industry faster than other economies.
Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry officials stated that vaccinations for the tourism sector would start from April 7. This step is crucial in the country's attempt to facilitate tourists and keep the borders open throughout the year uninterruptedly. Turkish authorities have announced that tourism workers will be vaccinated at accommodation facilities serving as Safe Tourism Certifications. The entire process will be completed in April.
Employees of hotels that are open for tourists will be vaccinated first, and the hotel will receive the Safe Tourism Certificate. Given these efforts, Turkey's tourism will start seeing momentum right from April, when Russian tourists are likely to visit Antalya.
In order to facilitate foreigners in Turkey wholeheartedly, new routes have been developed for tourists. According to the head of the Anatolia Sustainable Culture and Tourism Foundation, Cem Kınay, Antalya is a key destination for Russian travellers. The government is looking to develop an all-inclusive system in tourism.
In this regard, vaccination will play a decisive role in boosting tourism.
"The Russians are coming to Antalya the most in Turkey, where they love taking their vacations. The 'All-inclusive' system is preferred by them. This system is best adopted in Turkey," Kınay stated.
Turkey emerged as one of the world's best tourist destinations amidst the COVID crisis because of its effective containment measures. The country didn't overreact to the pandemic and took it for what it was- a virus.
Though the government implemented nationwide preventive measures and adopted extreme methods to control the virus' spread, such as imposing curfews and barring the elderly from staying out for long, it still didn't get threatened as much as many European countries did and put 90% of their population at risk.
The country employed a measured approach and focused more on initiating a rapid vaccination program. The efforts worked wonderfully in favour of Turkey as the country is now ready to open borders for tourists. Cafes, hotels, and bars now stay open most of the time during the day, and curfew restrictions are no longer applicable.
Compared to the other famous tourist hotspots around the world, the situation is much under control in Turkey. The country has made the right headlines both domestically and overseas by responding to the pandemic and promoting its tourism industry.
In 2018, nearly 39.5 million people visited Turkey, which already was an outstanding number. However, the following year, this number increased to 45.1 million. During 2020, Turkey witnessed a modest rate of tourism. The summers of 2020 were considerably better than the rest of the year as 12.7 million guests visited the country. But compared to 2019 figures, there was a staggering 71% drop in tourists.
It is safe to assume that tourists are interested in visiting Turkey once again. The country tops the list of repeat visitors and the current best destination in the post-pandemic world. It is estimated that there might be a 10% rise in first-time visitors this year. As per the government's guesstimates, an increase of 150% is expected compared to 2020. This may bring the total number of tourists visiting Turkey in 20201 to 30 million. However, it depends on a variety of factors. Such as any new and unexpected travel bans will affect this figure tremendously.
The situation is entirely the opposite of what it was exactly one year back. In the mid-half of 2020, the first wave of novel coronaviruses hit every country real hard. Just like other countries, Turkey was also clueless about how to deal with this crisis.
The government, however, picked up timely and implemented effective disinfection and social distancing strategies. Entire towns and cities underwent a rapid cleaning and disinfection spree. Moreover, to ensure that its hospitality sector was ready for the New Normal, measures like hygiene certificates, SOPs guidelines, and staff/managers training were introduced.
Personal and public hygiene was never as important in the country as it has become now. The sector, therefore, is ready for tourists now. There is a top-class level of safety and security, and hygiene conditions are top-notch even in Turkey's remotest areas.
Part of the pandemic-influenced cleaning measures was renovating hotel rooms and eliminating all those free items that were usually offered to guests, such as envelopes with hotel names printed, souvenirs, miniature sizes toiletries, telephone directories, etc.
Social distancing monitoring is one of the key measures the government has implemented. A contactless payments facility will be available wherever possible. However, this facility may not be available nationwide as there are many rural, remote areas in Turkey where there's only one ATM for the entire village. The government plans to address this issue in the upcoming months and intends to make contactless payments a default system.
By the time the summer season arrives, Turkey will already have waived the PCR test requirement. For instance, the country announced that inbound travellers arriving from the Republic of Ireland would not have to provide a PCR test starting from May. But, travel sector representatives are lobbying to force the government to move the date to mid-April for most coastal regions.
The reason behind this isn't that tourists don't want to get tested for coronavirus. The problem is that testing costs are high, as in many countries, a single test costs somewhere between $112 to $349. The test is way higher at facilities nearby airports since it is a requirement that a negative PCR test result obtained within the past 72 hours should be presented to the authorities.
In Turkey's case, this condition may not exist in the coming months if the general infection rates remain low. This, however, depends on us, the general public as well. Individual travellers must maintain the strictest level of hygiene, observe social distancing, and adhere to SOPs such as wear face mask, wash their hands frequently, and avoid physical contact with strangers as much as possible.
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