Turkey launches vaccination campaign for tourism workers to revive sector

Turkey has launched a vaccination campaign for its tourism industry workers in an effort to boost the vital industry that has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry has also been concerned about rumors that Russia may ban or restrict flights to Turkey.

K. Murat Yıldız / Duvar English

The radical drop in tourism revenue struck a heavy blow to the already-struggling Turkish economy and the government tried to entice as many tourists as possible by installing COVID-19 test centers at major airports, issuing safe tourism certificates, and letting almost anyone in the country who wanted to visit.

Still, Turkey's tourism revenue fell by 65.1 percent compared to 12.6 billion dollars last year, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK).

Over a million tourism workers will be vaccinated

Employees from lodging facilities and restaurants, as well as personnel from tour and transit companies, will be covered by the newly announced tourism workers program.

As part of the plan, more than 1 million workers in the tourism industry will be innoculated.

Turkey's nationwide vaccination campaign started in mid-January with the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, with preference given to the elderly and health workers. The campaign was recently expanded to include Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Campaign will encourage tourists to visit Turkey

“Above all, this campaign will aid our international marketing efforts. Second, it will give our guests a sense of security and ensure that the personnel serving them are COVID-19 free. It is significant in terms of marketing, health, and hygiene,” Firuz Bağlıkaya, Chairman of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), told Duvar English.

“It will encourage potential guests to visit Turkey. They will naturally prefer countries that have been vaccinated over those that have not, as tourism is a sector that involves close human contact. Turkey will gain a competitive advantage as a result,” Bağlıkaya added.

Unbearable drop in number of tourists and tourism revenue

The summer tourism season in the Turkish Riviera, especially in Antalya, typically begins in April – May with the arrival of mostly Russian tourists. According to data provided by the Tourism Ministry, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, Turkey saw a record drop of 99.26 percent in tourist arrivals in April 2020.

Furthermore, according to TÜİK, tourism revenue for the months of July, August, and September in the third quarter of 2020 decreased by 71.2 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year, totaling over 4.4 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, the industry is concerned about rumors that Russia may ban or restrict flights to Turkey, which has been regularly reported in Russian media outlets due to the increase in the number of cases in Turkey.

“That would be the nail on our coffin,” a resort manager from Antalya told Duvar English.

Safety of guests is crucial

“Because it is difficult to adhere to social distance rules in the tourism industry, the decision to vaccinate tourism workers will be beneficial. This campaign will produce positive results if it is completed by the end of May,” Pronto Tourism General Manager Ali Onaran told Duvar English.

“The Ministry of Tourism's Safe Tourism Certificates had a positive impact, and we anticipate a similar impact from this vaccination campaign. Our visitors will feel safer, which is crucial,” Onaran added.

Pointing to the fact that the problems they are facing are not much different than a year ago, he noted that “reservations were doing well, but due to the increase in the COVID-19 case numbers, reservations are now going down. We used to see up to 40 percent of domestic reservations, but now it's less than half of that. I don't want to give specific figures for international reservations, but I can say that they are significantly lower than our expectations.”