Turkey strives to revive tourist sector

In the airport, thermal cameras take passengers' temperatures, a quarantine room has been set up and a centre able to carry out 20 000 tests a day has opened.

25 June 2020 | Economics

In normal times, tourists must rise at dawn to secure a free sunbed on the beach in Antalya, a popular holiday resort in southern Turkey.

As elsewhere, the coronavirus pandemic has hammered the tourism industry a vital Turkish economic sector that welcomed a record 50 million foreign visitors last year.

With the lifting of restrictions around the world including the gradual opening of airline connections, Turkey is trying to lure tourists to save what it can of the summer season.

“We have taken strict measures to protect our employees and tourists,” Tourism minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told AFP in an interview. “Turkey is the best prepared country” to welcome travellers, he said.

The minister last week unveiled the “safe tourism” certificate, awarded on the basis of 132 criteria to hotels and restaurants able to accommodate customers in proper sanitary conditions.

To earn the tourism ministry's label, hotels must also set up a separate section to isolate tourists who test positive for Covid-19.

“We had to reconfigure our establishments. Despite these additional expenses, we will not increase prices,” said Sururi Corabatir, president of the Federation of Turkish Hoteliers.

Health insurance

The government has also introduced a health insurance scheme worth US$26 covering hospital expenses for Covid-19 patients. Travellers can sign up on arrival.

“In 2019, we received 35 million passengers, including 15 million from abroad. Since the beginning of the year, the total number is less than a million,” said Deniz Varol, director general of Antalya airport.

In the airport, thermal cameras take passengers' temperatures, a quarantine room has been set up and a centre able to carry out 20 000 tests a day has opened. In the absence of foreign tourists, some Turks enjoy a quiet vacation. Deniz Kaya, who comes to Antalya every year, has never seen the city “so empty”.

“People are careful, they spend their holidays respecting social distancing rules,” she said while tanning by the pool.

– AFP/Nampa

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