Turkey witnessed a good tourism season in 2021 compared to other countries despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to a very proactive approach adopted by the Turkish government that has been well supported by the industry stakeholders. The country expects a better tourism season in 2022. Firat Sunel, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to India, shares his perspective on India – Turkey tourism ties.
Turkey has been witnessing doubling of international tourist arrivals month after month welcoming 15.9 million foreign visitors during Jan-Aug 2021. What is the trend from India?
2019 was most successful year for Turkish tourism in terms of the number of international arrivals. In 2019, our destination hosted 2.3 lakh Indian tourists, with an increase of 55% in comparison with 2018. This number was a record for us in India. With the resumption of direct flights between our countries both the number of Indian tourists visiting to Turkey and Turkish tourists visiting to India will grow significantly in a short while. However, nowadays we also witness huge demand for our destination in India as well.
Indian citizens can travel to Turkey via Dubai or Qatar. We also try to facilitate the process for Indian visitors as much as we can. In this regard, I would like to underline the fact that our visa departments have been operating in full capacity in India. Besides e-visa scheme for Indian citizens is still valid. Indian citizen who has a valid Schengen, UK or US visa can apply for Turkish e visa online.
By when do you expect the arrivals to come back on 2019 level?
We expect to host around 25 million international visitors by the end of 2021. With the help of successful vaccination campaign both in Turkey and other countries we expect to reach 2019 numbers by 2022 or 2023.
There is a lot of confusion on approval of vaccines for travel globally. What is Turkey’s stance on Indian travelers?
I am very pleased to declare that, as of September 4th fully vaccinated travellers from India will no longer be subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine rule in Turkey. The vaccines that have been approved by WHO or Turkish Government are covered under this exemption. In addition to WHO approved vaccines, the vaccines approved by Turkish Government arePzifer Biontech, Sputnik V and Sinovac. Indian traveller must be taken the second dose (if Johnson&Johnson one dose is sufficient) at least 14 days prior to the date of travel. For Indian travellers who are vaccinated with Covishield will also be exempted from quarantine.
I also believe that, once Covaxin gets a nod from WHO, travellers vaccinated with Covaxin will also be able tovisit Turkey as the people who have been vaccinated with Covishield. The fully vaccinated travellers are also required to submit their negative PCR test report taken 72 hours before departure in order to exempt the quarantine. Nonvaccinated travelers are required to undergo mandatory quarantine for 10 days in a hotel or a location mentioned in the declaration. Children below 12 years old are exempted from the vaccination and negative PCR test rule.
What is Turkey’s policy for non-vaccinated travelers?
Non vaccinated travellers coming from India is subjected to mandatory quarantine for 10 days in a hotel or a location mentioned in the declaration.
How do you see air services getting started between Turkey and India?
Currently, there are no direct flights between India and Turkey, but travellers can travel via transit destinations. We are in close collaboration with relevant authorities about the resumption of direct flights. I believe that direct flights between our countries will resume in a short while.
How are bilateral ties between India and Turkey shaping up?
Friendly ties between Turkey and India have their roots in history. There are strong cultural bonds between Turkish and Indian Peoples. Both countries share similar values and ideals and commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, pluralism, open society, and sustainable development. They strive to strengthen international peace and stability.
Turkey and India have undergone an immense social, political, and economic transformation since the end of theCold War. Today, both Turkey and India are rising powers.
Turkey considers India as a friendly country taking firm steps forward to be a global power with its growing economy, huge market, military power, outstanding knowledge in space technology and informatics, rich human resources, and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage.
We closely follow and appreciate the rapid progress of India. Turkey is determined to develop its relations with India in every possible field. We deem that there is mutual will to enhance bilateral relations.
Our bilateral relations have a huge potential to develop and benefit both sides as relations at social and economic levels are already flourishing. We welcome the increasing trend in people to people contacts and business sector cooperation while looking forward to further developing our relations.
Anything more you would like to add from your side…
I would like to mention Safe Tourism Certification Program which has been at the heart of safety protocols of our tourism industry by the mid of 2020. As known, Turkey is one of the first countries in the World to introduce the Safe Tourism Certificate Program for the tourism industry.
This certificate covers a broad range of measures including transportation, accommodation, health condition of employees of the facilities and passengers. Granted by the international certification institutions, this system ensures the safety of the visitors, both domestic and international.
Thanks to the Safe Tourism Certificate Program the number of international visitors was more than 15 million in 2020 and we also aim to reach 25 million international visitors by the end of 2021.