Turkey's tourism industry slowly recovers from impact of COVID-19: experts


People are seen at a reopened amusement park in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Osman Orsal)

We have reservations for the coming weeks and we are ready to welcome our visitors, says a manager of a Belek resort in Turkey as the country's vital tourism industry is slowly recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ANKARA, July 29 (Xinhua) -- As Turkey is struggling to contain the COVID-19, the country's vital tourism sector is slowly recovering from the impact of the pandemic, industry professionals said.

In Belek, which is famous for its many resorts on the Mediterranean Sea in southern Antalya province, hotels are promoting safe tourism in line with health guidelines issued by Turkish authorities to attract foreign visitors.

We hosted tourists from Ukraine and people from the Balkans in recent weeks ... but our occupancy rate has not reached 30 percent yet. So for the moment, it's quite difficult to predict the future, Mehmet Keskin, a manager of a Belek resort, told Xinhua.

Photo taken on July 9, 2020 shows flamingoes at Lake Mogan in Ankara, Turkey. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)

We have reservations for the coming weeks and we are ready to welcome our visitors with all the necessary health precautions, Keskin said, adding that his resort had been certified by the Ministry of Tourism over hygiene and safe distancing rules.

Turkey has eased in early June most of its COVID-19 restrictions and tourism facilities in the country reopened with measures to ensure safety, but the occupancy rate has remained low as visitors are worried about the virus and wanted to avoid packed places.

Turkey's Transport and Infrastructure Ministry last week said Ankara and Moscow have agreed to resume flights following three and a half months of suspension amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Flights from Russia to Turkey will gradually resume on Aug. 1, semi-official Anadolu Agency reported, with initial flights to two biggest cities Ankara and Istanbul.

Aerial photo taken on July 10, 2020 shows the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. (Xinhua/Osman Orsal)

Flights to coastal cities where the bulk of touristic resorts are located, are scheduled to resume on Aug. 10.

Some 7 million Russians visited Turkey last year, according to reports published in the Russian press.

Russian citizens topped the list and accounted for 15.6 percent of all tourist arrivals in Turkey in 2019, according to the Turkish Culture and Tourism ministry.

Tourism accounts for over 10 percent of Turkey's economy, bringing in tens of billions of U.S. dollars in hard currency and employing millions of people.

With a vulnerable economy and dwindling foreign currency reserves, tourism revenues are essential for the nation.

In 2019, Turkey's annual tourism revenues rose to an all time high, hitting 34.5 billion dollars, according to official figures.

People enjoy themselves at a reopened amusement park in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Osman Orsal)

The Turkish government set a target of around 40 billion dollars for 2020 but this has become almost impossible with the pandemic.

Nevertheless, hotel owners expect the sector to gain momentum. Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association Chairman Erkan Yagci said that 285 hotels have applied for the safe tourism certificate, and more are preparing to do so.

For nearly 10 days so far, Turkey's daily new COVID-19 cases hovered around 900 and the country has recorded nearly 230,000 cases and over 5,600 deaths.