Despite the global ravages caused by Covid-19, Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry last week announced that, since the end of the local lockdown, the country had welcomed some 9.46 million visitors from various parts of the world, including many European countries.
The Turkish government lifted the national health lockdown in June 2020 and started international flight operations immediately, putting major precautions in place.
Speaking to RFI, the president of Turkey’s Travel Agencies Union (TURSAB), Firuz B. Baglikaya, said the reason for the good tourist inflow was that the country was providing the best services despite the pandemic.
“Turkey gave the best tourism services in the pandemic. That is why it became the country hosting the most foreign tourists among the Mediterranean countries,” he said.
“During the pandemic, rather than aim for an increase in the number of tourists, we focused on hosting our guests in the best way and ensuring that they spend their holidays in health, peace and safety. We continue our work from this perspective, and we want to build on solid foundations the increase we aim to achieve in tourism in 2021. We think it will be much better in 2021,” he said.
According to the brochure issued by the Tourism Ministry in Ankara, the highest number of visitors were from Germany, followed by Bulgarians and Ukrainians. To ensure their safety, the Turkish government certified almost 5,000 facilities to host tourists by establishing strict health and hygiene requirements at airports, transport services and accommodation.
“Turkey is surrounded by sea on three sides, has historical and cultural richness, it has the opportunity to host tourists round the year. With these characteristics, when assessed in terms of price-quality compared to other countries, it is a budget-friendly destination. And it is only a few hours from the European countries. During the pandemic, people did not want long plane trips. Many people arrived via alternative routes – road and sea travel,” Baglikaya said.
Early struggles to control Covid-19
In March 2020, Turkey was struggling to control the spread of the virus and was ranked among the first ten countries in the world to have the most positive cases. However, within a few months, it was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its efforts to straighten the graph and increasing the daily number of tests conducted.
So far, Turkey has reported more than 380,000 positive tests, 330,000 have recovered and there have been over 10,500 deaths.
Apart from the most visited destinations in Turkey, in the Aegean region of Bodrum, Antalya, Marmaris, the country’s cultural capital – Istanbul - attracted over 38 percent of all visitors.
Another local tour guide and agent who works in Bodrum said, “the government launched the 'Safe Tourism Certificate' in hotels. This has become a source of trust for foreign tourists who are considering coming to our country for vacation. So far, we are quite happy with the business”.
Alex Brown, a tourist from the United Kingdom said, “we came here for the heat and the sea. And we cross-checked all the information about the safe tourism campaign and so far have found it satisfactory. I think we made a good decision as the prices are also not so high compared to other places”.