Turkish tourism to endure another troubled year

Turkey’s declining coronavirus cases may not be enough to revive the country’s vital tourism industry, Bloomberg said on Tuesday, threatening the country’s current-account balance and ailing currency.

Despite the fact that new cases of COVID-19 are down about 75-percent from last month, top Turkey visitors Russia and the U.K. have already placed restrictions on travel to the country, it recalled.

Turkey reported record daily cases of more than 60,000 in April, prompting Russia, the biggest source of visitors, to cancel charter flights to the country until the start of June. 

Despite the recent fall in infections, Turkey earlier this month was placed on the British government's travel red list.

Meanwhile, Germany, the second biggest provider of tourists to Turkey, has designated the country as a high incidence area for COVID-19, requiring its citizens to quarantine for 10 days upon their return.

“Europe is shut, Russia is shut. Where will all those tourists come from?” Serdar Karcılıoğlu, head of an association of hotel executives in the resort town of Bodrum told Bloomberg. “If the government doesn’t give financial support to the industry, tourism facilities will be taken over by creditors.”

Debts are soaring in the sector as tourism firms owe banks 136.4 billion liras ($16.8 billion) at the end of 2020, an increase of 43 percent from the previous year. Employment in the sector has dropped by 19 percent to 1.38 million,Patronlar Dünyası reported last month. 

The tourism slump has clobbered Turkey’s current account, whose 12-month rolling deficit reached $37.8 billion in February, Bloomberg said, as compared to a surplus of $3.76 billion in 2020. 

Hopes are fading for the sector as the new start date for the season continues to be pushed back.

“Earlier this year we were talking about whether tourism could kick off in May. Now we’re talking about July,” Ahmet Arslan, tourism coordinator at Aktarli Group, which operates hotels, said.

According to Arslan, domestic tourism may not be able to save the industry, as many in the country have lost their jobs, forcing them to use their savings.

Turkey is experiencing a rise in joblessness during a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, measuring at 13.1 percent in March, the Turkish Statistical Institute reported on Monday.