Western Turkish resort reeling from second pandemic summer

Turkey’s western resort town of Bodrum appears to be facing another lost summer over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday.

Despite the return of flights from Russia and Europe, hotspot Bodrum, a key city in Turkey's vital tourism sector, will not recover for a few more years, the town’s mayor told the agency.

Tourism is the biggest source of foreign exchange revenue for Turkey, helping to spur economic growth and to finance its gaping current account deficit, the widest measure of net inflows and outflows of capital and goods. 

Without the income, the country’s financial obligations to the rest of the world must be met through other means, exposing the lira to selling pressure. The currency hit successive record lows in 2020, which the lack of tourists played a large part in.

In 2019, Bodrum, dubbed the “Turkish Saint-Tropez,” welcomed a record 4.34 million tourists, AFP said, but traffic decreased by two-thirds last year and the airport recorded just 350,000 arrivals between January and May of this year.

“We closed the last tourism season down 75 percent,” Bodrum mayor Ahmet Aras told AFP. “We said the last season was ‘dead’. We are calling this one ‘the walking dead’.”

A resurgence in the COVID-19 pandemic, with record daily cases of more than 60,000 in the spring, sparked a decision by Russia, the biggest source of visitors to the country, to cancel charter flights to the country. Other vital European countries also placed Turkey on a no travel list.

“Last year was like a joke, but we thought it was just that one time, and that we would get over it,” leather shop owner Engin Erkan told AFP. “But we are on our second year now. We are not strong enough to keep standing.”

Bodrum’s mayor is not too hopeful about the resumption of flights from Euorope and Russia.

“You cannot just open in July and expect to recover,” Aras said. “It does not work that way.”

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