An alarming surge in COVID-19 infections in Turkey, coupled with an ongoing gloom in the global travel industry, threatens to wreck hopes of recovery in the tourism sector, a vital source of hard-currency earnings for the crisis-hit country.

The Turkish government is under fire for mismanaging the pandemic, especially for holding crowded party conventions across the country in February and March. A sharp spike in infections led Ankara to reimpose partial lockdown measures last week, dampening hopes that major European countries, which provide the largest tourist flows to Turkey, could relax travel restrictions to the country ahead of the high tourism season. Ankara’s political frictions with Moscow over Ukraine might prove an additional setback for Turkey’s tourism industry, as it seeks to emerge from a terrible contraction last year. With little government support for the sector, tourism revenues plunged to $10 billion last year from about $30 billion in 2019, while revenues from air travel dropped by $8 billion to $3.5 billion.

Written by Mustafa Sönmez