Pandemic tourism in Turkey | The Economist
TOUR HISTORICS IN TURKEY are already spoiled. The food is excellent, the welcoming locals and the range of vacation options, from mountain hikes on the Black Sea coast to boat cruises on the Aegean Sea and hot air balloon over Cappadocia, are enough to last several. summers. A protracted currency crisis has seen the dollar strengthen against the lira by almost 60% in just over two years, meaning vacations to Turkey are cheap. A room in a luxury hotel can easily cost less than a restricted Airbnb offer in a European capital. If they can only resist tweeting their thoughts on Recep Tayyip Erdogan (at least 36,000 people have been investigated for insulting the thin-skinned Turkish president in a single year), foreigners will be in for a treat.
These days, they will also be surprised, although it will be welcome will depend on the idea that one has a rewarding vacation. To revive tourism, Turkey has declared vacationers exempt from covid-19 lockdowns. With residents ordered to stay at home from late April to at least May 17, following a spike in infections and deaths, tourists have had the country almost to themselves. Foreigners in Istanbul walk through empty streets and board empty ferries. On the Mediterranean coast, they bask on empty beaches and take long solitary swims. Turks caught doing the same were pulled out of the water by gendarmes and fined 3,180 pounds ($ 380), more than the monthly minimum wage. Residents cannot buy alcohol during the lockdown, following a government ban. Foreigners can drink freely in hotels.
Things are about to get even more interesting. From May 15, travelers from more than a dozen countries, including Britain, will no longer be required to produce a negative covid-19 test upon arrival in Turkey. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, has pledged to vaccinate “anyone a tourist is likely to see”, that is to say hotel staff, etc., by the time. end of the month. Turks who are still waiting for their first shot and unlikely to find themselves within sight of a visiting stranger have bristled. The deployment of the vaccine has slowed down. Of the 100 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine that China has promised to send to Turkey, only 27 million have arrived.
Turkey is in dire need of income from tourism. A few years ago, the industry generated $ 34.5 billion. That amount fell to $ 12.6 billion last year due to the pandemic, inflating the country’s already insanitary current account deficit. This year can be even worse. Tourism income between January and March fell 40% compared to the same period last year. This week, Britain put Turkey on its “red list” for travel, banning visits for fun and imposing strict quarantine rules. This decision forced Uefa, The European Football Association, to move a Champions League final between two English clubs, Manchester City and Chelsea, from Istanbul to Porto, Portugal. Russia, which sent more tourists than any other country to Turkey last year, has suspended almost all flights to the country until June. It came after Mr Erdogan criticized Russia’s annexation of Crimea and offered to support Ukraine’s plans to join. NATO.
The new lockdown reduced covid-19 infections, which had climbed to more than 60,000 a day in April, offering some hope that tourism could rebound during the summer. But closing the country off to locals while rolling out the red carpet for foreigners hasn’t gone particularly well. “Unlimited Turkey” reads a false tourist advertisement circulating on the Internet, accompanied by a photo of an almost deserted beach. “Now available without the Turks.”
âThis is ridiculous,â says Kaan Alpan, a banker from Bodrum, a popular resort on the Aegean coast. “If we had closed properly at the right time, we could have opened now.” If he were a foreigner, Mr. Alpan would be free to cool off in the sea. As a Turk, all he can hope for is a quick trip to the grocer’s. Even some tourists are worried. Visiting Kazakhstan Anara says she has no plans to go swimming while her Turkish neighbors are trapped inside. âI wouldn’t want to do this to them,â she said. “It would be unfair.” â
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This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Where did everyone go?”