Turkey hopes for British tourists as hotels set to close

Hotels could shutter two months early after Germany designated Turkey as high risk

The Marmaris region in Turkey is a top tourist destination. Getty Images
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Turkey's tourist sector is pinning its hopes on Britain removing it from a Covid-19 travel red list later this week to help it recover from the pandemic, a spate of wildfires and Germany's designation of Turkey as high risk.

While Turkish tourism has experienced a strong rebound from last year, with foreign visitor arrivals for July jumping fourfold to 4.36 million, it remains well below pre-pandemic levels.

Many hotels in the southern Aegean region, which rely heavily on British tourists, may close by the end of August if Britain does not remove Turkey from its red list, tourism officials say.

Turkey's economy is heavily reliant on foreign currency revenue from Russian, German and British tourists.

While the Russian market has performed well, Germany's classification of Turkey as a high-risk country this month has hurt the sector.

Kaan Kavaloglu, head of the Limak Tourism Group which operates four hotels in the southern resort of Antalya, said sales of Turkey packages to German tourists had slowed.

“We don't see cancellations for the existing bookings, but new bookings have slowed down. We hope this decision will change in the short term,” Mr Kavaloglu said.

Ulkay Atmaca, head of Turkey's Professional Hotel Managers Association, said with the fall in German bookings and the Scandinavian market remaining closed, the sector was looking to Britain, which sent more than 2.5 million visitors in 2019.

“We are eyeing the British market to open this week,” Mr Atmaca said. “We expect a huge demand from the British market as it opens.”

Hotels in Marmaris, a top tourist destination which was hit by wildfires this month, met Turkish banks on Friday to discuss loan restructuring, said Bulent Bulbuloglu, chairman of the South Aegean Hoteliers Union.

He said many hotels may not be able to repay loans until 2023.

Data from Turkey's BDDK banking watchdog showed total loans in Turkey's hotel industry at 116 billion lira ($13.7 billion) and the industry's non-performing loans at 4.2 billion lira ($497 million) by the end of June.

Mr Bulbuoglu said the sector was waiting for the British market to open “as a last chance”, and added that otherwise, 70 per cent of hotels in Marmaris would close by the end of August.

Updated: August 23, 2021, 9:07 PM