An Interview with Bulut Bağcı, President of the World Tourism Forum Institute
While the coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic primarily affects many areas, particularly public health, the tourism sector, which constitutes 13% of its GDP and mainly contributes to closing the current account deficit, is one of the most affected areas in this process.
World Tourism Forum Institute President Bulut Bagci, in an exclusive interview given to Turkish Euronews, said that due to the outbreak of coronavirus, Turkey has a 80% decline in the tourism sector.
The World Travel and Tourism Council shared its estimate that 50 million people could remain unemployed in the tourism sector worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak.
However, to Bagci, this figure may increase to 75 million when sectors related to tourism are included. According to the new coronavirus measures announced by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday evening, international flights were also terminated completely.
A shift to red alarm status
Domestic tourism experts in Turkey have shifted to red alert status due to the flight restrictions and cancellations. In tourism and tourism-related sectors in Turkey nearly a million people are employed. It also has an important contribution to the reduction of unemployment figures in Turkey.
“80% of the companies in the tourism sector closed the shop and took their employees for free leave. There is a shrinkage of 80% in the sector. Even if the spread of the virus will stop completely in June, it is necessary to wait at least until August for the sector to recover. From August to November period of time, the maximum turnover is determined.” Bagci says.
Russian market will be the first market to be open
Stating that the world has not faced such a crisis in the past, and therefore the authorities have difficulty in giving an effective and fast reflex, Bağcı said that Russia is the first market to be opened if there is no political problem in bilateral relations when the crisis ends. Because Turkey is the number one destination for Russian tourists.
According to the official data of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism; Turkey hosted 51.7 million visitors in 2019 and earned a total of 34.5 billion dollars. The most guests who come to Turkey in the ranking, the Russian Federation took first place in number of visitors. Germany, Bulgaria, Britain and Iran follow.
“Let’s forget the European market wholesale this year, let’s focus on our strategies for 2021. I am hopeful of the local tourists, but the return of tourism revenues does not mean much in the country. Along with foreign tourists coming from abroad, we had a serious foreign currency input and we covered most of the current account deficit with tourism.”
Turkey’s tourism revenue was 34.5 billion dollars in total over the past year level.
Expectations from the governments
So, what are the expectations of the tourism industry professionals from governments?
Bağcı proposes to focus on this sector in subsidies and loans by declaring the priority sector of tourism:
“Because the first sector adversely affected by the crisis is the tourism sector, the tourism sector is the first to recover positively when the crisis ends. For example, when the crisis is over, the construction sector does not invest immediately. Therefore, our diplomatic representatives abroad carry out a positive advertising campaign, emphasizing the health policies we have carried out in the fight against the virus needs to explain the measures. ”
On the other hand, with the coronavirus outbreak, a radical change in people’s travel and purchase preferences is expected. For example, the risk of getting sick from the buffet options in all-inclusive hotels began to take place in people’s perception. This process may also change the definition of travel.
Currently, hotels’ fitness, SPA and similar social areas are closed due to both cost reduction and hygiene concerns.
Radical changes in hotel management and transportation sectors
Bagci emphasizes that hygiene will replace luxury in the tourism sector.
“Airlines will no longer carry people like fish hoards. A change is expected all over the world. If the stakeholders in the tourism sector read this sociological change well and can transform themselves accordingly, they will survive.”
“For example, the carpet of the hotel room will be disinfected with every new customer, because people’s expectations are changing in this direction. If organic nutrition is popular, once the cancer cases have increased, now the needle will return to hygiene. Airline companies and accommodation facilities will be hygiene-oriented. It will be boasted not to have a hotel, but a hygienic hotel, because they need to adapt their logic to this in order to survive in the sector, “says Bagci.
The process requires adaptation of other operators in the tourism industry to new conditions. For example, Bağcı talks about the reasons behind Thomas Cook, the oldest travel company in the world, declaring its bankruptcy in September 2019:
“With Europe’s climate change, people’s buying habits have changed, they have not started making early purchases because they did not feel like a holiday. Thomas Cook also went bankrupt because of the impact of climate change on the industry. “