Foreign tourists’ interest in Turkey's ski resorts increased last year, and hotel reservations reached a record 80% capacity in some places. However, the partial curfews, particularly over New Year’s, which also apply to ski slopes have hit demand hard as sector representatives remain anxious about more cancellations if the restrictions are not lifted.
The country’s ski resorts have increased their promotional events in recent years and had just started to reap the benefits of those efforts in 2020. The global COVID-19 pandemic that caused the closures of the resorts in the Alps was also effective in turning the huge demand toward Turkey. Vacationers from around the world, especially Ukraine, Russia and Europe, made reservations months ago for the ski centers, including Erciyes in central Kayseri province, Palandöken in eastern Erzurum and Kartalkaya in northwestern Bolu province near Istanbul. The reservations initially exceeded 80% of area hotels' capacity.
Tourism professionals, stating that the demand from abroad continues despite the weekend curfews that started in December, said ski slopes closed during New Year's week, which significantly affected the sector.
Kayseri Erciyes Inc. Chairperson Murat Cahit Çıngı said Turkey has carried out a strong fight against the pandemic and that top-level measures were implemented in resorts.
He said the country implemented the certification system for COVID-19 measures long before Europe addressed the issue on its agenda.
“With the effect of the closing of the hotels in the Alps and the promotions we had been doing for many years, the wind turned in our favor,” he said, noting: “Despite the weekend curfews, we received very high foreign reservations.”
However, Çıngı said that the ski slopes were suddenly closed during New Year's week, which caused widespread cancellations.
Seventeen charter aircraft set to arrive from Poland by the end of April have already been canceled, he said, along with two out of 10 planes due to land in Kayseri in a week.
“If the restrictions continue, these eight charter flights will be canceled as well,” he said, pointing out that if we do not solve this problem urgently, “we will miss the opportunity.”
Veli Tuzak, the general manager of Dedeman Palandöken, also stated that the occupancy rate of the hotels in the region is currently 60%, but "if the ski slopes were not closed at the last moment, this rate would be around 80%.”
Charter aircraft from Russia and Ukraine land once a week, he said; however, cancellations had occurred due to the closure of the slopes.
Tuzak stated that if the restrictions are lifted, the demand will return to normal.
He emphasized that skiing is an individual sport that requires no human contact that would be dangerous in terms of passing the coronavirus to others.
“The use of masks is recommended as protection against the virus. You already wear a helmet while skiing. So, all the precautions are in the natural process of skiing,” Tuzak said.
Yusuf Avcı, regional manager of the Kaya Palazzo, which operates Dorukkaya-Kartalkaya ski resorts, also stressed the urgency of lifting the ban on the ski slopes in a bid to not miss the opportunity to save the season.
He stressed that apart from Russia, Ukraine and Europe, the demand is high from Qatar, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan as well.