Keeping the daily coronavirus infections under tractable margins, Turkey is close to normalising tourism with strict social distancing measures in place.

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry on Monday stated that the country had hosted almost 5.5 million foreign visitors until August amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to the harsh impact of coronavirus on tourism worldwide, Turkey's tourist footfall decreased by 78 percent from 24.7 million, when compared to the same period of last year.

Like other countries at the start of the pandemic, Turkey imposed a combination of lockdowns and followed it with a step by step lifting of curbs on social mobility. Once it brought the rate of daily infections under a thousand mark, it slowly opened up its economy. 

In July, the country hosted 932,927 foreign visitors. Last year, it was dramatically different, and something closer to 6.5 million, if not more, in the same period of the year. However, the number was 214,768 more than in June. 

Last year, more than 45 million foreigners entered Turkey, up from nearly 39.5 million in 2018.

In order to ensure the safety of tourists, a collaboration between Turkey’s Culture and Tourism and Transportation ministries, ‘The Safe Tourism Certification’ was  launched. It covers a wide range of safety measures: from transportation and accommodation, to health conditions for tourists and hospitality employees alike.

During a televised interview with the private channel NTV, Culture and Tourism minister, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, said;

"We decided to further improve our Safe Tourism Certification Program which aimed to quell health concerns. "We want the program to be permanent even in the post-pandemic period while increasing its criteria."

He added that some 4,900 facilities have already been certified so far in Turkey. 

The certificate, issued by international certification institutions, validates the execution of strict health and hygiene requirements at airlines, airports, and other transport facilities, as well as in accommodation outlets and food and beverage venues.

Talking about the expected number of people travelling to Turkey as tourists this year, the minister said that the country might host more than 15 million by the end of 2020 as long as the air traffic is not disrupted by further  pandemic complications.

"We may receive more than $11 billion of tourism income this year," Ersoy stated. 

Giving further details about the total numbers of tourists who have been welcomed by Turkey, Ersoy said that in total, 6.5 million had visited Turkey. 1.2 million were Turkish nationals who live abroad or have dual citizenship, while 5.3 million were foreigners.

"The summer season, which started late this year, seems to end late this year," he said. 

This helped to reinforce the suggestion that many have decided to enjoy staycations - wherever they might have been - this year, rather than travel abroad. 

Which cities hosted more tourists in Turkey?

2.7 million visitors - which makes up half of everyone who travelled to Turkey for tourism - headed to Istanbul, a statistic that proves that it has been the consistent main draw.

Next was the northwestern city of Edirne, which has borders both with Bulgaria and Greece.  It was visited by 817,292 people

Another popular destination is Antalya, which is located in the Mediterranean. It followed Edirne with 648,768 foreign visitors. 

Nationalities of foreign visitors

German tourists took the lead when it came to totalling up foreign visitors, with 2.67 million people travelling into Turkey. Bulgarians, however, came in second place with 8.33 percent and the Russians followed with 6.12. Ukranians accounted for almost 5 percent of the tourists.  

Hotel occupancy rates across Turkey over January and July, fell by 33 percent according to the Turkish Hotel Association (TUROB) figures. In comparison to the same period in 2019, it had decreased by almost 50 percent. 

This naturally has also had an impact on revenue per available room - it dropped by 58.3 percent to some $24 in the first seven months of this year, while an average daily rate for rooms reached $72.4, added TUROB. 

Source: TRT World