The COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world over a year ago and tourism worldwide has since seen a considerable decline. Turkey heavily relies on its tourism industry and previously hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors daily. But in 2020, figures fell significantly due to the virus and subsequent travel restrictions. However, implementation of increased safety measures provides hope for the tourism industry in Turkey.
The Pandemic’s Effects
With a rich cultural history, Turkey offers a variety of stunning historic sites and tourist attractions. In recent years, the country has ranked among the top 10 most-visited countries worldwide, according to WorldAtlas. Places like Istanbul and Antalya draw in millions of visitors, creating thousands of jobs as well as revenue for the country. This was before the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for many countries, especially those that relied on tourism and travel for economic stability. For Turkey, the pandemic led to up to $12 billion in lost revenue and slashed tourism rates by 75% in the first half of 2020 compared to the previous year.
Contrasting those dim statistics, Turkey was labeled as a success last year by the WHO due to its fast actions in containing the virus. The Turkish government quickly instituted strict curfews for citizens, which proved successful and indicated a quick end to the virus. Consequently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan loosened restrictions in Turkey’s “controlled normalization” phase in early 2021. Since then, there has been a drastic spike in cases this year. There is an estimated 1000% increase in daily cases, with an average of around 50,000 cases per day. Despite Turkey’s impressive initial control of COVID-19, deaths have doubled since the end of 2020.
Turning a Corner with Safety
When will former capacity return to sites like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar? That is the main question business have in 2021. In response, the president of Turkey’s Travel Agencies Union, Firuz Bağlıkaya, stated that tourist agencies plan to create the best experiences possible for tourists rather than increasing tourism rates. As such, the government has begun to roll out what it calls the Safe Tourism Certification Program, which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The program is mandatory for businesses with 30 or more rooms and optional for smaller businesses. After a company applies, an accredited team comes to assess the safety of the establishment. Companies that pass the inspection are then announced on the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s website. Certified companies also receive safety logos that are visibly placed throughout the facilities. To ensure continual safety, periodic inspections occur in both a planned manner and secretive visit on a monthly basis. All of this information is made easily accessible to everyone, including guests, by simply scanning the QR code found on every safety logo.
Tourism Season in 2021
Although small businesses and vendors in Turkey have been hit hard, things are looking up for the country’s tourism industry. According to Firuz Bağlıkaya, European countries rolling out vaccines at higher rates is an encouraging sign for the tourism industry. Tourists from these countries may be more inclined to travel, which is very important since the tourism industry relies on foreign traffic. Additionally, establishments within Turkey are measuring up to safety standards due to the Safe Tourism Certification Program. This will entice more visitors to come back the country and see its famous sites. With increased vaccine rollouts and continued safety protocols, Turkey may be back on its feet for the 2021 tourism season.
– Maddie Youngblood