Ukraine conflict dashes hopes of Turkey tourism recovery

Ukraine conflict dashes hopes of Turkey tourism recovery
The lack of tourists could cost the Turkish tourism sector about $5 billion. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 March 2022

Ukraine conflict dashes hopes of Turkey tourism recovery

Ukraine conflict dashes hopes of Turkey tourism recovery

ANKARA: Hopes for a tourism recovery in Turkey after the COVID-19 pandemic have been dashed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Millions of Russians and Ukrainians fly south to holiday in Turkey each year, but figures are expected to be far lower this year, leading to forecasts of a 30 percent decline in the industry.

With tourism season approaching, southern resorts are already feeling the effects of the invasion and subsequent sanctions on Russia, with cancellations topping 70 percent.

Last year, in a country where tourism represented 10 percent of gross domestic product just before the pandemic, some 4.7 million Russians and 2.1 million Ukrainians visited Turkey, accounting for almost a quarter of the total 24.7 million foreign tourists arriving throughout the year.

The Association of Turkish Travel Agencies was expecting the arrival of 7 million Russians and 2.5 million Ukrainians this year, but expectations are now much lower.

For Turkey’s southern resorts, the high season for Russian tourists normally starts in early May.

Many of the Ukrainian and Russian tourists who travel on cultural and historical trips to Istanbul during winter also canceled their trips this year.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party recently released a report, claiming that the lack of Russian and Ukrainian tourists could cost the Turkish tourism sector about $5 billion.

“If the Ukraine conflict prolongs further after March or April, I don’t expect that Russian and Ukrainian holidaymakers will come this summer. It is completely related to the war psychology. You cannot have a summer holiday abroad if your parents are fighting for your country, or you lost a relative on the battleground,” Bulut Bagci, president of the World Tourism Forum Institute, told Arab News.

Russian and Ukrainian tourists usually head to the resort towns on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, such as Alanya and Antalya, as well as tourist hot spots like Cappadocia in central Turkey, where charter flights from Ukraine launched two years ago.

If the situation in Ukraine deescalates, it is still likely that Russian tourists, for the most part, will make bookings in Turkey, but problems could also arise due to the heavy financial and payment sanctions placed on Russia.

Following the exclusion of Russia’s seven major banks from the SWIFT system, Visa and Mastercard have blocked the use of Russian credit cards abroad.

Experts said that the ending of SWIFT transfers for Russian citizens has already led to cancellations in Turkey.

“We can make up for some of the losses if we are able to mobilize domestic tourists. However, we should have already taken steps to expand and diversify into different markets rather than being dependent on some countries,” Bagci said.

Goksel Gungor, co-founder of YTM Tourism Villa Aparts in Fethiye, the Mediterranean resort town, warned that domestic tourists would not be able to make up for the loss of Russian and Ukrainian visitors.

“It is the first time that I have filled only 12 percent of the hotel reservations for the summertime. Even during the tense relations with Russia, we managed to compensate the gap with the arrival of the Ukrainian tourists. Now it is not the case. We can’t expect people fighting for their countries to plan their summer holidays,” he told Arab News.

After a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkish F-16s along the Turkey-Syria border in 2015, the country’s tourism industry was also hit hard after Russia banned charter tourist flights to Turkey in retaliation.

The war in Ukraine might also influence the holiday preferences of British tourists.

“Several tourists from the UK have not canceled their reservations yet. But they still haven’t confirmed their bookings. Everybody is making their summer plans according to the course of events on the battleground,” Gungor said.

Sector representatives also warned that tourists will avoid selecting destinations close to Ukraine over fears of being near a war zone.

And some Turkish hotel owners think that the growing use of cryptocurrency by Russian holidaymakers will be “unsuitable” for the tourism sector’s financial needs.

“Turkey still doesn’t have a legal framework for the cryptocurrency payments. Therefore, Russian tourists using cryptocurrency would not be life-changing for us,” Gungor said.

The status and frequency of flights from Russia to Turkey, after Airbus and Boeing joined Western sanctions, is also causing headaches for industry professionals.


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.


Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
  • Cairo, Khartoum fear it will reduce their share of Nile waters
  • Egypt says it will take all necessary measures to protect national security

CAIRO: In a letter to the UN Security Council, Egypt has warned of cracks in the concrete facade of the sub-dam linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Cairo said this is particularly alarming due to Ethiopia’s failure to comply with its duty to conduct the required environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

The letter, sent to the UNSC president, said Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aty had received a message about Ethiopia’s intention to unilaterally resume filling the GERD during the current rainy season.

Abdel-Aty said Ethiopia’s decision comes in the absence of an agreement between it and Egypt and Sudan on the rules governing the filling and operation of the dam, constituting a violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.

He stressed that Cairo holds Ethiopia fully responsible for any significant harm that may be caused to Egypt by these repeated violations.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN Charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopia’s unilateral measures may cause.

The GERD has raised tensions between Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other.

The latter two countries are demanding a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, which they fear will reduce their share of the Nile’s waters.

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UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 11 August 2022

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
Updated 11 August 2022

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
  • Italian Embassy: Project will improve housing for vulnerable people affected by port blast

LONDON: The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the UN Program for Human Settlements have signed an agreement in Beirut to finance the rehabilitation of the public park of the Mar Mikhael train station in the Lebanese capital.

The program will also restore some of the housing damaged by the Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.

The Italian Embassy in Beirut reported the signing, hosting a ceremony at the Italian diplomatic headquarters in Baabda. It was attended by Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere.

The project, titled “Ensuring safe public spaces and adequate housing for all within the city of Beirut,” is being funded by the agency and will be implemented by the UN program alongside Lebanese authorities.

The embassy said the project will improve “housing conditions for vulnerable populations affected by the explosion of the port of Beirut, in particular in the vicinity of the old Mar Mikhael railway station.”

It added that the project intends to increase “access to safe and inclusive public spaces within the railway station, also revitalizing the urban fabric of the city.”

Bombardiere said: “This project will allow the citizens of Beirut to rediscover the old Mar Mikhael railway station and its historical relevance.

“At the same time, we continue our commitment to respond to basic needs, such as social housing, restoring the cultural and social fabric of the districts most affected.”


Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets
Updated 50 min 8 sec ago

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets
  • Civilians gather outside bank in support of gunman
  • Bank's lawyer claims efforts under way to reach a negotiated conclusion

BEIRUT, LEBANON: A gunman has entered a Beirut bank in Al Hamra Street demanding his savings are released so he can pay his father’s hospital bills.
The man, named as Bassam Sheikh Hussein, 42, says his money has been withheld as part of measures taken by the Banque du Liban  (Federal Bank of Lebanon) since 2019.

It is understood that the man took eight hostages, six employees and two customers.

On entering the bank, witnesses said the man poured gasoline into the bank hall on Thursday morning and pulled out a gun threatening to burn himself and kill those in the bank unless he was given the $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital costs.

The security services have cordoned off the area where crowds have gathered - some shouting their support for the gunman  with chants of “give him his money back,” and even calling him a “hero.”

Later in the afternoon people became increasingly impatient, and warned the Lebanese minister of interior that any attempt to enter the bank by force to bring the gunman out would be met with a violent response by civilians at the scene.

 

Customers who were inside the bank when the gunman stormed it said, he had had an account with the bank, containing $210,000 and was demanding they release $2,000.

It is understood the gunman told customers to leave the bank and kept the employees inside.

Shortly after the siege began the gunman was seen leading an elderly man from the branch, before letting him go.

Hasan Moghnieh, head of the depositors’ association, told Arab News that the gunman had originally demanded $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital bill.

But when the bank refused, he demanded the whole $210,000 balance.

“The bank brought $10,000 as a settlement to give it to the gunman, but he refused,” Moghnieh added.

“Now further negotiations are underway.”

He said he did not know the gunman personally, but added: “By negotiating with him, it became clear that he is serious about his threats and he is ready for ‘collective damage.’"

Outside pople gathered in the area in solidarity with the gunman chanting: “Down with the rule of the bank.”

They told media at the scene that the siege was an inevitable outcome of government’s actions that had ultimately led to millions of people’s finances being frozen by the banks.

And they warned that their could be repeats of the siege in the future unless something was done - later warning that any attempts to the end the siege by force by security would be met with civil unrest.

A number of customers who had gathered in the area shouted to the media that they supported the actions of the gunman, stressing that they too wanted their money.

Mughniyeh said the gunman “fired two shots inside the bank,” adding that the man was with his brother who also holds money in the branch.

He said the gunman justified the siege as the only way he could get his money.”

Some of the gunman’s supporters said he might be protected under Lebanese laws permitting citizens to protect themselves, their possessions and money by force.