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.
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.
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.
"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.
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."
The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry launched a two-day program to introduce the country's "safe tourism" concept to ambassadors to Turkey in the Mediterranean province of Antalya during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just two roofs poke through the vast expanse of an artificial lake that has swallowed a Turkish town whose caves and pre-Ottoman ruins once drew in global tourists.
News that the country is throwing open its borders to tourists this summer shines a spotlight on its many seaside escapes.
Only a few months ago residents of the impossibly picturesque Austrian village of Hallstatt were debating how to stem the influx of tourists thronging its narrow streets, nestled between soaring mountains and a sparkling lake.
Sheikh Hamdan was reportedly enjoying the spectacular view 250m over Dubai.
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