Turkish ministry's 'vaccinated tourism staff' video draws fury from Turks

A video released by the Culture and Tourism Ministry has drawn fury among Turkish people who say it places health and welfare of tourists above locals. The promotion video shows tourism personnel wearing yellow face masks printed with “Enjoy – I am vaccinated,” while tourists are seen not covering their faces.

Duvar English

The Culture and Tourism Ministry on May 13 shared a video from its “GoTurkiye” social media account, urging tourists to come to Turkey and saying that they can spend a “safe holiday” in the country.

The video, which showed tourism personnel wearing yellow face masks printed with “Enjoy – I am vaccinated,” drew reaction among Turkish people. Shortly afterwards, the ministry removed the video from its account.

“This summer we have all of our staff vaccinated. Sanitized resorts and vaccinated staff. We call it a double safety for tourism,” the video narrates.

The tourists in the video are not seen wearing any facial masks.

Thousands of Twitter users slammed the video, saying they felt belittled. A majority of Turkish citizens have not yet been vaccinated due to a shortage of supplies.

“The phrase of 'I have been vaccinated' is not enough. Neuter us,' renowned Turkish musician Burhan Şeşen wrote on Twitter.

“I thought this was a hoax but Turkey’s tourism agency is really running adverts which show local workers wearing masks saying 'enjoy, i’m vaccinated'. We were joking when we said you should just put yellow tags on their ears like stray dogs,” said one Twitter user.

In Turkey, tags are put on dogs' ears to show that they have been neutered and are safe.

"A free country gives priority not to prove to tourists that every one of its citizens is vaccinated, but instead to prove to its citizens that every tourist is vaccinated," tweeted Turkish entrepreneur Can Gürses. 

Washington Post journalist Vanessa H. Larson, who was previously based in Istanbul, also commented on the issue, comparing the ministry's move to "a colonial mindset." 

"Feels almost like a colonial mindset to have this tourism ad campaign for Turkey as locals are on lockdown and less than 13% of country is vaccinated," she wrote on Twitter. 

The video also drew severe condemnation from Turkish opposition politicians, who called on Culture and Tourism Minister Nuri Ersoy to resign.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said that the country has come to a point where a ministry can insult its own people.

“You have managed to put a damper on the festival of Eid al-Fitr. We have finally a ministry that insults its own people!” wrote Kılıçdaroğlu on Twitter.

“We do not deserve a rulership that sees its own people so worthless. They have left this nation without vaccines. And they have brought down this country, including the tourism sector. They have deleted the tweet for perception management but the video is everywhere now. A country cannot be managed by insulting and deceiving its own people,” said DEVA leader Ali Babacan on Twitter.

The video came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on May 6 said that Turkey will vaccinate everyone that a tourist might run into amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Çavuşoğlu made the comments in a news conference in Berlin with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.

The Turkish minister's statement added to increasing grievances about the state's double standards towards tourists.

Tourists in Turkey have been exempt from the curfews for a while now. They have been also given a free pass during the strict lockdown that started on April 29 evening and lasts until May 17 morning.