BY FEHMI KOFTEOGLU
The SARS COV-2 virus is mutating, with new variants emerging each passing day. But how will it affect the Mediterranean region in terms of international tourism? The Mediterranean is considered the center of global tourism but the region is also in the spotlight as the coronavirus ravages littoral nations.
No estimation can be made about the regional countries, including Turkey, in terms of how the new variants will affect the number of COVID -19 cases. That’s why the scenarios prepared by the international travel industry regarding the overall Mediterranean region and countries on an individual basis are being revised on a regular basis. Although cautious estimations for 2021 were successively revised based on the record-setting collapse in 2020, no one has been able to make 100% accurate projections yet.
Spain and Greece, two of the top Mediterranean tourism destinations, initially projected 50% of 2019 figures. But they have downgraded the target figure under current conditions. What about others? Here is the outlook of the Mediterranean countries with their tourism expectations for the season.
>> SPAIN: If the current situation continues, 70% of the tourism industry won’t be opened, according to Jose Luis Zoreda, Vice President of the Spain-based Exceltur. “The number of tourists totaled 83.7 million in 2019. If we can’t reach at least 40% of this figure this year, a difficult period awaits the Spanish tourism industry,” said Zoreda. Moreover, hotel say that there is no hope in 2021 to recover the heavy losses suffered by Spanish tourism sector due to the pandemic.
>> GREECE: Considered to be in relatively better shape compared to Spain and Turkey, has changed the tourism revenue target, too. Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said in the beginning of new year that they aim to double tourism revenues from EUR 4bn in 2020 to EUR 8bn in 2021. Later, the country’s Tourism Minister stated that this target is unlikely to be achieved.
>> EGYPT: The situation in Egypt depends on Russia, whether it starts charter flights to the country after five and a half years since a Russian plane was downed by ISIS terrorists. Although there are optimistic developments in favor of Egypt, how they will affect projected figures for the end of 2021 are difficult to estimate.
>> TURKEY: While the situation is bleak for Spain and Greece, Turkey, which was on the cusp of becoming a tourism leader in the region before the pandemic, remains in a challenging position. Russia, the top inbound country for Turkey, has suspended charter flights while Germany has listed Turkey among high-risk countries. A travel ban, meanwhile, continues in the UK.
Turkey set a target to double foreign visitors and tourism revenues in 2021, according to a statement by Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Ersoy in February. It’s almost certain the country will not achieve this target, not only due to the spike in coronavirus cases but also due to the adverse impacts of developments in foreign politics, such as the Ukraine crisis with Russia and the statement of the U.S. about the so-called Armenian ‘genocide’.