Prospects fading, Turkey hopes lockdown rescues tourism season

Prospects fading, Turkey hopes lockdown rescues tourism season
Tourists walk on the site of the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul, during a new lockdown aimed at fighting a surging third wave of COVID-19 infections. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 May 2021

Prospects fading, Turkey hopes lockdown rescues tourism season

Prospects fading, Turkey hopes lockdown rescues tourism season
  • Lockdown through mid-May in part to rescue season
  • Early season COVID-19 rise hits tourism bookings

Turkey’s tourism sector faces another lost season after a rapid coronavirus rise wiped out many early foreign bookings and prompted Russia, its top source of visitors, to halt flights and warn against travel this summer.
In a last-ditch move to cut infections and save the season, President Tayyip Erdogan last week imposed a lockdown through mid-May in part, he said, so that European countries did not leave Turkey behind as they re-open beaches, restaurants and travel.
The foreign cash that tourists spend is critical to offset Turkey’s heavy foreign debt, but revenues plunged 65 percent last year when the pandemic first hit.
The tourism minister told Reuters that 30 million foreigners could arrive this year, twice as many as last, if the lockdown succeeds in lowering daily COVID-19 cases to below 5,000 from near 30,000 in recent days.
But travel agents, associations and hotels said they fear this year will be little better than last after the virus wave briefly ranked Turkey second globally in new cases just as the season kicked off, before it dropped back to fourth.
Some Turkish and Russian agents see a difficult few months until August, when they say the Mediterranean and Aegean hot spots and historic sites in Istanbul and elsewhere could fill up again. Much will depend on last-minute bookings, they said.
“The lockdown decision will probably not be able to save the season” because it was taken too late, said Cem Polatoglu, general manager at Istanbul-based Andiamo Tour.
Even if the lockdown cuts daily coronavirus cases to below 5,000 by the end of May, as the government hopes, he said it takes time for countries to remove travel warnings “which means probably losing July too.”
Coronavirus cases topped 60,000 last month, leaving Turkey’s top five tourist sources — Russia, Germany, Britain, Bulgaria and Iran — with travel warnings in place.
Ankara said Moscow’s decision to halt most flights until June 1 blocked 500,000 tourists, compared to a total of 2.1 million Russians who came last year and some 6 million before the pandemic.
The flight ban could be extended. Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said last week Russian operators should not sell tours even after June 1 until authorities decide.
Yana Starostina, manager at Traveland agency in Moscow, said clients still want to go to Turkey but added she expects it won’t be possible until August.
Turkey’s foreign and health ministers are set to visit Moscow on May 12 to discuss travel.
Mediterranean tourist hubs are trying to lock in bookings despite a shifting map of travel warnings, local restrictions and vaccine rollouts.
Last week neighboring Greece lifted quarantine restrictions on more virus-free visitors, while Turkey will ditch virus test requirements for travelers from Britain, China, Ukraine and some others by mid-May.
Tourism accounts for some 12 percent of Turkey’s economy and was the hardest hit sector last year, even though virus-related curbs had been lifted by June.
Turkey’s current account deficit ballooned to $37 billion last year when tourists brought in only $12 billion, down from a record $35 billion in 2019.
Though arrivals were down 54 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, Tourism and Culture Minister Mehmet Ersoy said a sharp drop in coronavirus infections since April 21 was a hopeful sign that “drastic” lockdown measures were working.
“As of June 1, we will open the tourist season and if we can reduce the number of daily cases below 5,000, we maintain our target of 30 million tourists this year,” he told Reuters.
That sounds optimistic to others.
Polatoglu of Andiamo Tour expects only 6 million arrivals this year and said roughly half of Turkey’s 12,000 tour agents are already closed, many unable to repay government loans meant to ease pandemic fallout.
Bora Kok, sales manager at Bora Bora Boutique Hotel in Antalya on the Mediterranean, where tourism season usually starts in April, said the lockdown was overdue but welcome.
“If Russian tourists do not come, there will be serious bankruptcies and potential layoffs,” he said.
Erdogan’s government hopes the lockdown, a drive that has so far vaccinated 16 percent of the population, and a safe hotel certification program will propel last-minute bookings.
Aegean-based Peninsula Tours has had no more than 20 early reservations per day through March and April in its Dalaman region, compared to about 300 last year, said regional manager Ali Kirli. “Early booking has almost come to a halt.”
Turkish Hoteliers Federation Chairman Sururi Corabatir told Reuters: “We had hopes for 2021. But unfortunately the case numbers have not been at the desired levels.”


Saudi Arabia to help Sudan cut IMF debt

Saudi Arabia to help Sudan cut IMF debt
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi Arabia to help Sudan cut IMF debt

Saudi Arabia to help Sudan cut IMF debt
  • The Kingdom announced during the Paris Conference on Monday a $20 million grant to cover part of Sudan’s financing gap with the IMF

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia aims to support Sudan’s efforts to reduce its International Monetary Fund debts.
The Kingdom announced during the Paris Conference on Monday a $20 million grant to cover part of Sudan’s financing gap with the IMF, Al Arabiya reported.
Saudi Arabia also said it would also help the country deal with its arrears.
A Saudi official involved in debt restructuring talks for Sudan said that the Kingdom would encourage creditors to reach a broad agreement to reduce the African country’s $50 billion debt pile.
International Monetary Fund figures show that Saudi Arabia is the third largest creditor to Sudan, with about $4.6 billion outstanding.
Sudan is eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
The two-day Paris Conference to support Sudan comes as France writes off billions of dollars in Sudan debt.
“Reducing Sudan’s debt, which we are about to embark on, is a first result of reforms. This trend should be cemented, both economically and politically,” the French President said at the opening of the conference.
One of the goals of the Paris conference is to garner interest in investment in the country.
Billions of dollars in projects in energy, mining, infrastructure and agriculture will be proposed, said Sudan’s minister of cabinet affairs Khalid Omar Youssef.
“Sudan is a very rich country. We do not want charity, we want investments,” said Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok.


Bahrain probes $1.3bn Iranian money laundering network

Bahrain probes $1.3bn Iranian money laundering network
Updated 18 May 2021

Bahrain probes $1.3bn Iranian money laundering network

Bahrain probes $1.3bn Iranian money laundering network
  • Attorney General Ali bin Fadl Al-Buainain said the alleged offenses took place between 2008 and 2012

RIYADH: Bahrain’s attorney general said that public prosecutors had uncovered a $1.3 billion money laundering racket linked to officials at Future Bank and other Iranian institutions — including its central bank.
Attorney General Ali bin Fadl Al-Buainain said the alleged offenses took place between 2008 and 2012.
Al-Buainain said that Future Bank officials, together with other Iranian bank officials and the Central Bank of Iran, were involved in the transfer of money through an unauthorized remittance system, Al Arabiya reported.
Officials concealed the source of the funds to enable banks that included Iran’s Melli Bank and Bank Saderat Iran, to complete transfers which would have otherwise been blocked.
Al-Buainain alleged that Future Bank and its controlling shareholders were involved in systematic and widespread violations of banking laws in Bahrain.

 


Oil firm OQ to develop Oman green fuels project with consortium

Oil firm OQ to develop Oman green fuels project with consortium
Updated 18 May 2021

Oil firm OQ to develop Oman green fuels project with consortium

Oil firm OQ to develop Oman green fuels project with consortium
  • At full capacity the project will consist of 25 gigawatts of renewable solar and wind energy to produce the hydrogen

A consortium including Oman’s state-owned oil firm OQ will develop a renewable energy project in the Gulf state capable of producing millions of tonnes of zero-carbon green hydrogen per year, the developers said on Tuesday.

At full capacity the project will consist of 25 gigawatts of renewable solar and wind energy to produce the hydrogen.

So-called green hydrogen, created by splitting water into its two components using electricity from renewable energy sources, is increasingly viewed as a fuel of the future to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

Other members of the consortium are Hong Kong-headquartered InterContinental Energy, a renewable energy project developer, and EnerTech, a clean energy investor and developer which is owned by the Kuwait Investment Authority.

“The project will help transform Oman’s skills base and technical expertise in renewable energy, providing a significant number of high value jobs during site construction and operation,” the statement said.

Gulf oil-producing countries are trying to diversify their economies by creating new sectors and revenues, including through a big push in renewable energy.

Abu Dhabi plans to produce and export hydrogen as fuel and Saudi Arabia is working on a $5 billion hydrogen project in the NEOM high-tech business zone.


The electric Lamborghini is coming . . . but not just yet

The electric Lamborghini is coming . . . but not just yet
Updated 18 May 2021

The electric Lamborghini is coming . . . but not just yet

The electric Lamborghini is coming . . . but not just yet
  • First hybrid series production car to hit the market in 2023, with all its models “electrified” by the end of 2024

MILAN: Italian sports car maker Lamborghini on Tuesday unveiled Tuesday a €1.5-billion ($1.8 billion) electrification plan for its luxury vehicles, joining a global push away from fossil fuels at the risk of upsetting fans.
The company, which is owned by Volkswagen subsidiary Audi, said its first hybrid series production car would hit the market in 2023, with all its models “electrified” by the end of 2024.
But a battery-only model won’t be released until the second half of the decade, Lamborghini said.
The plan is “necessary in a context of a radically-changing world,” CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in a statement.
“We want to make our contribution by continuing to reduce environmental impact,” he added, saying the investment plowed into electrification is the company’s largest-ever.
By 2025, the company should reduce carbon emissions by half, it said.
The global trend toward electrification has been more challenging for the makers of the fastest sports cars than for mass-market producers.
Some have speculated that the brands’ fans may reject the different torque and driving experience of an electric vehicle compared to traditional combustion engines.
Following in Ferrari’s footsteps, Lamborghini in 2019 unveiled its first foray into electrification with the Sian supercar, capable of accelerating from 0 to 62mph (110 km/h) in less than 2.8 seconds.
The Sian, which means “lightning” in Bolognese dialect, cost over €3 million and only about 60 were built.
Lamborghini’s well-heeled customers helped it to record profit in 2020 despite the coronavirus-related challenges that hurt the automobile industry as a whole.
The company sold 7,430 cars last year, compared to its record of 8,205 vehicles in 2019.
Lamborghini shut down production for 70 days last year at the height of the coronavirus crisis in Italy.


Dubai desert tour outfit to expand in Saudi Arabia

Dubai desert tour outfit to expand in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 May 2021

Dubai desert tour outfit to expand in Saudi Arabia

Dubai desert tour outfit to expand in Saudi Arabia
  • The joint venture, signed at the Arabian Travel Market, will establish a full-service destination management company in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Saudi family conglomerate Aljan and Brothers Holding Group is bringing Dubai’s Desert Adventures Tourism to the Kingdom, as international tourism is expected to boom.
The joint venture, signed at the Arabian Travel Market, will establish a full-service destination management company in Saudi Arabia, modeled on the Desert Adventures Tourism operation in the UAE.
“Despite the challenges of the past eighteen months we have seen considerable growth in visitation and spend across many regions of the country and we are optimistic about the future of tourism in Saudi,” Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said.
Aljan and Brothers is one of the largest private sector conglomerates in the Middle East, with businesses in textiles, real estate, logistics, and entertainment.
“Through this partnership, we will not only become a market leader in this sector but also create new jobs and support elevating the Kingdom as a prime tourism destination,” the group’s sponsor of tourism and hospitality Fahad bin saad Alajlan said.