Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 1 said he intended to hold talks on tourism with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the upcoming June 14 Nato summit in Brussels.
Turkey, beset by a resurgence of its coronavirus outbreak, is struggling to save its tourism industry from a summer season disaster, with countries including the UK, Germany and Russia so far not green-lighting the country as an approved leisure destination for its citizens. The UK lately added Turkey to its travel “red list”. Consequently, the UEFA Champions League football final was moved from Istanbul to Portugal and the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix was cancelled. Erdogan, who claims Turkey has made excellent progress in reducing its coronavirus infection rate—though top analysts are yet to back that analysis—complained that the decisions were political.
Last year, 820,0000 Britons visited Turkey, down 68% from 2019. In 2018, Turkey welcomed 2.3mn holidaymakers from the UK.
In an interview on state-run broadcaster TRT, the Turkish president mentioned that officials of his administration have held talks in Germany and Russia to pave the way for the summer tourism season.
But this week, Russia extended its ban on tourism flights to Turkey until June 21, citing the coronavirus situation in the country.
The extended ban will cost the Turkish tourism industry some $500mn, representatives from the sector told business daily Dunya.
The total cost of the Russian flight restrictions, stretching across April, May and June, would exceed $2bn, said Ferit Turgut, from business group TURSAB.
Turkey’s tourism industry, which in a typical year accounts for around 11% of Turkish GDP, saw its earnings fall from $34bn in 2019 to around $12bn in 2020.
Johnson, asked on June 2 about UK policy on moving countries on to its "red list" for travel, responded: "You’ve got to wait and see what the Joint Biosecurity Centre say and what the recommendations are about travel.
"We’re going to try ... to allow people to travel, as I know that many people want to, but we’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary.
"I want you to know we will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list, if we have to do so. The priority is to continue the vaccine rollout, to protect the people of this country."
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