By Aysu Bicer and Yunus Girgin
MUGLA, Turkey (AA) – A world tourism forum kicked off Friday on the Turkish Riviera, with a focus on both the present and future of the sector as the coronavirus pandemic nears a more manageable phase.
The Global Tourism Forum, co-organized by Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry and the event’s host city, the sunny Aegean resort of Bodrum, is bringing together top figures from both world of politics and the tourism sector.
In his opening remarks, Nadir Alpaslan, deputy culture and tourism minister, said tourism is a very important sector for the public, the economy, and jobs.
"Before the pandemic, tourism contributed $1.5 trillion to the world economy," he explained, adding that virus-driven restrictions and the blow to people both hit the economy hard.
"Turkey made efforts to minimize the effects of the pandemic,” he explained, mentioning closures from the first cases in Turkey in March 2020 until that June.
"In order to minimize the damage suffered by the tourism sector, we implemented our Safe Tourism Certificate Program, which can set an example for the world," he said.
"As of today, more than 10,000 certified tourism areas and more than 5,000 hotels have received certificates,” he added.
“In 2019, Turkey became the sixth-most popular destination for foreign tourists. It became a country earning tourism revenues of $35 billion. With its tourism potential, our country is a candidate for much greater developments in the years to come."
– Service sector, return of tourism go hand in hand
In his remarks, Ismail Gulle, head of the Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TIM), said the pandemic process had hit the service sector hard and dealt a big blow to tourism.
"World trade now is seeing a serious logistical demand," he said, adding that tourism will likely see the same, as people who have long been confined to their homes will want to get back out into the world, with the help of vaccinations and continued safety protocols.
"This period is one which will see a quick recovery with the provision of vaccines and the improvement of the environment," he said
He said the tourism sector has been leading the sectors in world competitiveness and also fueled service exports.
"Turkish service exports, especially in recent years until the onset of the pandemic, gained serious momentum. Along these lines, 2019 set records, with service exports totaling $63.6 billion."
Last year, despite travel restrictions, tourists from all around the world kept flocking to Turkey, he explained.
"Considering the virus-related measures taken last year, when flights start back at full capacity, service exports led by tourism will set new records," he added.
Also speaking at the forum, Bodrum Mayor Ahmet Aras stressed the change in the tourism industry due to the pandemic.
Pointing to digital migration as the main effect of pandemic era, Aras said: "Now people are thinking of continuing their businesses and social lives as digital nomads. Our data shows that there are more than 17 million employees identified as digital nomads."
All we need for Turkey and Bodrum to better fit the age of digital nomads in the tourism sector are adaptations to state procedure, he added.