Action needed as coronavirus strikes Turkish tourism sector – advisory board

The spread of the COVID-19 virus is already taking its toll on Turkey’s tourism sector with hotels recording a large number of cancellations for the coming season, an advisory board organised by Turkey’s tourism business associations said at a meeting with Culture and Tourism Minister Nuri Ersoy.

The Turkish Tourism Advisory Board called on the government to suspend social security and other payments until the end of the year, and said banks should offer tourism companies credit at favourable rates and suspend interest payments on existing loans until the year’s end to help keep the sector afloat.

While the new coronavirus has rapidly spread around the world since it broke out in China’s Wuhan province in December, Turkey has remained remarkably free of the illness, only recording its first case on Tuesday.

But the international panic over the outbreak, which the World Health Organisation warns could become a pandemic, will hit the tourism industry hard the world over as people avoid travelling.

The board told Ersoy that the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation had predicted a drop in tourist numbers by as much as 4 percent. It said Turkey’s hotel operators, food sector and tour operators would need cash flow support this year as well as a suspension of social security and VAT payments until the year’s end.

The Export Credit Bank of Turkey and other banks should ease the burden on tourism companies by dropping interest charges until the year’s end and making credit available, the board said, adding that the government should also take action to encourage domestic tourism.