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It is an honour for me to welcome to WTFI Recovery Townhall

H.E. Ozgul Ozkan Yavuz,

Turkish Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism

Welcome

Its true! In 2019 Turkey was the sixth-most visited country in the world with more than 52 million visitors annually, a 14 percent increase year-on-year.

Tourism one of biggest sources of income, with a revenue of $34.5 billion in 2019. This year, Turkey was aiming to attract 58 million tourists.

However all that changed due to Covid 19- a crushing blow:

The IMF’s most recent forecasts on the pandemic’s economic impact predicts that Turkey’s economy will shrink by 5 percent in 2020 amid a worldwide recession of 3 percent.

1. What’s the outlook for tourism and hospitality moving forwards? How is your country responding to the current situation? 

Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has recorded over 4,500 virus-related deaths and more than 160,000 infections. President Erdogan’s government has been gradually easing the restrictions for the past few weeks.

As per a reputable survey, Turkey will likely to post fastest post-COVID-19 recovery among tourism destinations, as it has reopened restaurants and cafes in addition to many other public areas, as well as the iconic Grand Bazaar.

2.Do you think it’s not too early and a big risk considering it’s a very congested country – especially now that the cities experience less pollution due to less tourists – What measures have been applied to avoid over tourism and sustainability?

Turkey has started a detailed ‘healthy tourism certification program’ for hotels over the coronavirus outbreak. The ministry recently issued a hygiene notice to inform hotels about COVID-19 measures, such as social distancing and hygiene rules.

It is said that Turkey’s Tourism Ministry will start sending out undercover inspectors to check hygiene and safety standards at hotels as part of its new “healthy tourism certificate” program

3. Talk to us about this program and the aggressive phone diplomacy that has been launched with 70 countries

Is it focused only on hotels or also hygiene standards at airlines, airports and other transportation facilities, accommodations and food venues?

As restrictions are lifted – Turkey has started to receive new holiday bookings, with an expected 70% occupancy rate for July.

Because the sector accounts for around 12% of the nation’s economy – this is all good news. Still  due to the virus- April being the worst month saw a 99.3% year-on-year decline in foreign visitor numbers to 24,238. – so the business are feeling the pain.

4. Is the government helping the tourism industry with any financial incentives, waivers etc to help the industry?

Turkey is among the top seven countries in the world and ranks 1st in Europe with its 1,500 thermal springs and 1.5 billion Health Tourism industry. Some 18 golf courses and 150,000plus hotel room capacity, and With its favorable location, existing potential, mega projects, and ambitious targets set for 2023, the tourism sector continues to grow  Even though there has been a surge of investments in the last several years, there is still ample room for new ventures!

5. Does the Turkish government offers incentives such as reduced utility prices and reduced tax rates, and develop policies in eliminating any bureaucratic barriers that may hinder future investments in the tourism sector?

Based on 2018 tourism figures, Forbes Travel has ranked the world’s top 10 most-visited cities, with Istanbul coming in at 8th place –  and these visits are supported by 57 airports with one of them being the biggest in the world the Istanbul’s new airport. I believe it’s the size of city of Manhattan.

Flag carrier Turkish Airlines which carried more than 74 million passengers last year most recently announced that domestic flights started from June 4 and international flights until June 10, open Today!

6. How critical is the role of the Turkish Airline and this huge airport investment by the government?

Italy established its tourism PR agency 100 years ago, Spain 37 years and France 32 years ago, and now Turkey follows its own Turkish Tourism Promotion & Dev Agency with initial budget of around $125-150 million and I believe its  importance to Turkish tourism economy is such that it reports directly to the president?

7. That’s ground-breaking – Tell us about this PR agency? And why now?

Performing arts and theatre facilities that closed their curtains early due to the pandemic will reopen one month earlier this year. This we know is critical – It was exactly 10 years ago when Istanbul was crowned European Capital of Culture – from there on it worked hard to become the hub for performing arts to opera and your iconic TV shows and dramas. One I cannot resist talking about is the play Dirilis Ertugrul – which the PM of Pakistan praised and has now become a rage in the country.

8. Do you see that such productions are helping the cause of tourism in Turkey – just the way Game of Thrones has done for Northern Ireland?

Finally! Women in Turkey are underrepresented in entrepreneurship and business ownership as well as in management due to significant sociocultural and economic barriers. Turkey has one of the lowest female workforce participation rates among countries with similar income levels: According to the World Bank data, only 33 percent of Turkish women were economically active in 2019.

As a successful woman leader in tourism –  you are a role model where many women would like to be.

9. What’s your message to them and one key advise?

Closing:

Listening to you I am reminded of a famous quote by poet and scholar Jalaluddin Rumi:

“After hopelessness, there is so much hope and after darkness, there is the much brighter sun.”

Turkey’s decision to take on this crisis with a bold determination to overcome through tourism – is that bright ray of sun, in otherwise still a very cloudy mood of the Global Tourism Industry!

Thank you!

Interview by the CEO of World Tourism Forum Institute, Sumaira Isaacs

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