Serkan Alan / DUVAR

The outbreak of the coronavirus has begun to hit the Turkish tourism industry, with sector representatives concerned about a rapid surge in hotel reservation and flight cancellations that have occurred as a result of the virus. 

Plane ticket sales have fallen by 80 percent due to the virus, according to Association of Travel Agency Managers (SAYD) Chairwoman İlknur Fidan Kepez, who said that many travel agencies were in a very difficult position after scores of travelers cancelled their plans for Easter or the Newroz spring holiday. 

Following warnings from the Ministry of Health advising people to avoid crowded areas, numerous events organized by other ministries such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sport and Youth were cancelled. 

“No one wants to travel or get on a plane. Hotels and airlines are all a linked chain. At the same time, agencies and tour guides have been severely affected and tours have been cancelled,” Kepez said. 

“If this continues to get worse, we will have to request credit. At the moment there is a support fund for countries affected by the virus, and we are demanding the same thing, because if this continues we will not be able to put our employees to work and will have to let them go. In the industrial sector, perhaps you can continue production by taking precautions but tourism is directly related to people and earns its revenue from travel,” Kepez added. 

Turkey Tourism Promotion and Advancement Agency board member Burhanettin Sili compared the situation to 2016, when Turkey’s tourism sector took a huge hit during a year marked with terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Ankara and the failed coup attempt that occurred on July 15. 

“This is a negative situation to the utmost degree. We experienced this in 2016 and nearly 50 pct. of our customers decreased. In this type of situation that rate will increase much more throughout the world. Our prediction and belief is that this problem will not continue. According to some scientists’ announcements this will not continue in the summer,” Sili said. 

Professional Hotel Managers Association (POYD) chair Ülkay Atmaca said that the sector had essentially lost Newruz, but that March and April weren’t big months for the hotel industry. 

“These are generally months where preparation [for the busy season] is conducted. What is important is that this situation does not continue. If it does, it will be bad for hotel managers. We don’t even want to think about that. We have taken preventative measures against the virus in our hotels. We have provided training to our personnel and have taken care to use more disinfectant,” Atmaca said.