Turkey's lonely tourist attractions face make-or-break week - GulfToday

Turkey's lonely tourist attractions face make-or-break week


A man wearing a protective mask walks on the Konyaalti beach in Turkey.

Turkey's Mediterranean coasts and historic attractions face a critical week as the government presses to open borders and salvage at least part of a tourist season already battered by the coronavirus pandemic.


With beaches largely empty and many hotels deciding whether to open, Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy told Reuters he hoped the world's sixth-largest destination could attract up to half of last year's 45 million arrivals.


But much depends on talks to begin flights from Russia, Germany and Britain - also hard hit by the virus - which should reach some conclusions by early next week, he said.


turk2 The old town and the historic port are seen, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in the southern resort city of Antalya.


The stakes are high for Turkey, where a rebound this month in COVID-19 cases has raised concerns in a country where tourism accounts for up to 12% of the economy.


 Foreign arrivals fell by two thirds in the first five months of the year.


To convince foreigners and their governments that travel is safe, Ankara launched a "healthy tourism" programme including health and hygiene checks, and more than 600 hotels have applied for certification.


In the Mediterranean hub of Antalya at the weekend the historic town centre was virtually empty and very few foreign tourists were seen at hotels.


turk3 A man wearing a protective mask arrives at Konyaalti beach in the southern resort city of Antalya.


Such hotels "cannot survive with only Turkish tourists," Ersoy said in a Friday interview.




Some $35 billion in tourism revenues helped briefly turn Turkey's current account positive last year. In April, the deficit was $5 billion as revenues disappeared and empty hotel rooms this summer would drive it higher.




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"Tourism is probably the sector which will go through the longest recession" and its seasonal workers face "a very bad period," said Seyfettin Gursel, economist at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University.


Ankara decided to halt state funding that partially covered lost wages of formal employees, including some in tourism.


turk4 Local people stand on a hill overlooking Konyaalti beach, amid the COVID-19 outbreak.


Workers and a union said some hotels have begun training on hygiene and social distancing even while many have held off hiring.


Okan Osman, from Frankfurt, was one of very few tourists to arrive in Antalya, which he said was "much better and cleaner" than years past.


"Of course it's difficult for everyone and for the staff, but they seem to have been well trained and everyone is really well prepared."


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