Turkey reports tentative rise in holiday bookings from abroad

The Turkish Hoteliers Federation has said that new bookings from abroad are slowly coming in, and that they are targeting a 70 percent hotel occupancy rate this summer, as Turkey hopes to boost its vital tourism sector that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, Anadolu news agency reported. 

"As the world normalises, and people begin to lose their fear, new bookings have begun to slowly come in,” the federation’s vice president Taceddin Özden said. 

He said that most new reservations are currently coming in from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and some Balkan countries, and that some holidaymakers who booked trips to Turkey in April or May had transferred their bookings to the July, August, or next year. 

Özden stated that cancellations of pre-season reservations made from abroad were low for July to October.

He said that if Turkey’s easing of coronavirus restrictions this month goes smoothly, then July and August could still be a high season, and they will aim for a 70 percent overall overall - and even 100 percent occupancy in some hotels if they can ensure social distancing. 

In May, Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said that Turkey would "be doing well if we can open 50-60 percent of hotels".

Özden added that the hotels will determine their capacities according to social distance – including maintaining a social distance of 1.5 metres at pools, beaches and restaurants.

Turkey's government has drawn up detailed hygiene measures that hotel owners must follow and says it will conduct tests for the virus at airports.

But it was reported earlier this week that Turkey may need to await joint European Union approval before it can begin welcoming tourists from Germany and the rest of the continent. 

Germany, which ranked second after Russia last year for the number of tourists visiting Turkey, said this week that it would lift a ban on travel to EU countries on June 15, but would await recommendations from the European Commission before easing travel warnings on Turkey and other countries.

Revenues from tourism are critical to rejuvenating Turkey’s economy, which was only just starting to recover from a currency crisis in 2018 before the coronavirus broke out. Turkey’s income from tourism surged 17 percent to a record $34.5 billion in 2019.

But revenue dropped by an annual 11 percent to $4.1 billion in the first quarter of this year. Turkey reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 11.