Turks overload travel websites ahead of tightest COVID-19 lockdown

Several Turkish websites for travel agents and intercity bus companies crashed due to a surge in visitor numbers on Monday, a director at a Turkish travel agency told news website Diken.

Turks rushed to make travel arrangements between towns and cities after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a lockdown on the population until May 17, Diken said on Monday.

Popular travel hub obilet.com saw its traffic quadruple within minutes of Erdoğan’s Monday announcement, strategic development director Sertaç Keleş said, according to Diken. At its peak, the portal saw a seven-fold increase in visitors, he said.

However, Russia on Tuesday announced that it was cancelling tour packages to Turkey as of June, two weeks after it announced a cancellation of most flights to the country, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia has become sceptical about Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Ukraine over war-torn Donbas region.

Many online ticket websites became inaccessible as travellers rushed to book travel for Wednesday, Diken said. That is the last day before Turkey enters its tightest lockdown since the start of the pandemic in March last year.

The lockdown came as Turkey registered daily deaths of above 300 for the ninth-straight day, with 353 people dying of COVID-19 related complications on Monday. The Health Ministry said 37,312 people contracted the illness. There were 506,899 active cases in the country, it said.

Turkey aims to lower daily cases to below 5,000 and ease restrictions after Eid al Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Turks often travel to visit family elders during the holiday, but many have had to postpone plans due to coronavirus restrictions in the past year.

All schools are switching back to remote education and most employees will work remotely under the lockdown. Intercity travel will be limited to strictly necessary cases, requiring permits from the authorities.