A mild 20 degrees – and that's just a little over two hours' flight away from cold, wet Germany. In the small town of Lara near Antalya on the Turkish Riviera, the Hotel Delphin Imperial is located directly on the kilometer-long beach. Even if the sea is still a bit cool: the first German tourists are already venturing into the water. "It's finally going well again, even now in winter," says Deniz Ugur, owner and boss of Bentour Reisen. The hotels here are 80 percent fully booked – and that's before the real season begins in April, he tells ARD. Above all, sports tourists and wellness vacationers are already on site.
The Hotel Delphin Imperial offered by Ugur did not close during the pandemic and maintained the service including the high corona protection measures. That was expensive, but it's now paying off, says the entrepreneur. The guests, many of whom have been coming to Lara for years, have honored this. "We are a reliable travel destination," says Ugur. He now hopes that the number of infections will soon decrease and that his guests will be able to fully enjoy their vacation again.
The hygiene measures in the so-called "Safe Tourism Program" should be maintained for the time being. For the Delphin Imperial this means: no self-service at the buffet, disinfection, distance rules and mask requirements. But soon Ugur hopes that these measures can be dropped. Then he will appeal to the personal responsibility of the guests, so the entrepreneur.
Attractive through flexible offers
After the 2020 tourism season in Turkey almost fell through, there was a small upswing in 2021. The bookings are said to have been 70 percent of the pre-Corona year 2019. And for 2022 not only Ugur, but the whole travel industry is euphoric. There are already up to 300 percent more bookings from Germany. "Optimism is spreading," says Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association DRV, who has just found out about the current situation in Turkey. "Bookings to the western and eastern Mediterranean are picking up noticeably. This is also shown by bookings to Turkey."
Turkey is a particularly attractive travel destination for Germans: easy to get to, the currency is cheap compared to the euro, and the temperatures are reliable. In addition, many travel companies offer so-called "flexible offers", where early bookers can secure low prices. Trips can be canceled up to 14 days before departure. Then a fee of 29 euros per person is due.
Flight bookings are increasing
Peter Glade, head of sales at the German-Turkish airline SunExpress, is also optimistic. The airline, a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines based in Antalya, has been bringing mainly German tourists to Turkey for more than 30 years. The numbers are almost "stronger than before the crisis," says Glade. And: The Germans would like to go to Turkey. He noticed a new trend: there are mainly very short-term and very long-term bookings.
Travel Association President Fiebig calls for a "return to normality" from German politics. The decisions of the Prime Ministers' Conference in mid-February to adjust the classification of risk areas are welcomed. But now countries like Turkey with a comparatively low incidence are to be removed from this list, which includes a hundred countries. According to Fiebig, this "no longer makes sense or is comprehensible".
Above all, travel for families with children under the age of twelve should be made easier. Because families with children who are not fully vaccinated should be able to travel without the sword of Damocles of quarantine. Germany is the only country in the EU that has such a regulation for children. The tourism entrepreneur Ugur sees it similarly, because “families in particular have suffered greatly from the restrictions, there is a need for action here.”
Hope for summer season despite Ukraine crisis
80 hotels in his program are already open, says Ugur. In the main season, which lasts from April to October in Turkey, all 400 hotels should be able to be booked again – so he hopes. "We just want to get away, into the sun," many German friends told him. Ugur hopes it stays that way.
He looks at the Ukraine conflict with some concern. According to the entrepreneur, there is currently no dent in bookings from Germany, but of course the hoteliers in Turkey are also expecting many guests from Russia and the Ukraine. The tourism industry in Turkey cannot afford another bad season. And political instability would be catastrophic for the region.
But nobody wants to think about that right now. That is why people in Turkey rely particularly on the German travel world champions, especially in the holiday season. The current trend in bookings could fulfill this hope. This shows that many Germans also hope to be able to spend carefree holidays on the beaches of Bodrum, Izmir and Antalya again soon.