Turkish airport operator TAV Airports is charging into the post-COVID-19 normalization period with a slew of new investments.
The company is particularly interested in regions where the number of passengers is set to grow.
“We are looking at developing countries, not developed ones. We are focusing on Central Asia and Africa,” TAV Airports Chairperson Sani Şener told Anadolu Agency (AA) Sunday.
Şener reminded that TAV Airports already started operating Kazakhstan’s Almaty Airport and that the city is one of the most important centers on the historic Silk Road. He pointed out that there are a lot of tourism opportunities revolving around the trade route.
TAV inked a related deal for a share purchase agreement to buy Almaty International Airport, the main gateway into Kazakhstan, in May 2020. Then in January of this year, the Turkish airport operator also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Uzbekistan's Innovative Development Ministry to cooperate regarding joint investments and innovative projects.
“Companies, governments and countries have constantly developed their strategies,” Şener said as he pointed out that many companies had to change business models to adapt to the post-pandemic period and that regulations around the world will also need to be updated per new pandemic rules.
“We want to adapt ourselves to the new era by constantly improving our strategies,” he said, adding that this adaptation, however, is not possible with “old rules.”
Pointing out that the travel and tourism sectors are on the same side, Şener said that these sectors in each country are trying to persuade their governments to pave the way for the resumption of travel as they are the ones that took the biggest hit from the pandemic and related restrictions.
As for Turkey, Şener said he believes the existing travel restrictions are to be lifted soon as Turkey has an accelerated vaccination drive.
Turkey has lowered the vaccine eligibility age to 40, the Turkish health minister announced on Sunday. The vaccine age eligibility limit, however, does not cover all sectors as some are prioritized including the tourism and travel industry.
The country has administered over 33.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in mid-January, according to the Health Ministry data.
More than 19.69 million people have gotten their first doses, while over 13.65 million have been fully vaccinated, according to ministry data.
Şener further stressed what makes travel even more difficult or the investment environment blurrier is that each country has different practices.
“One country requires a 14-day quarantine, one does not have a quarantine rule at all, but a vaccine is requested, and, for example, a third one wants a PCR test to be done 72 hours before the flight. There was confusion regarding these practices. Now they are slowly coming into order.” he said.
Şener said that during the pandemic, scientists, politicians and economists of every country were not on the same line, and everyone looked at the situation from their own perspective.
Expressing that Turkey did a very smart job with the Safe Tourism Certificate during the pandemic process, Şener said: “Despite the pandemic process, a significant number of tourists came to Turkey last year. I believe this year will be even better.”
Turkey is set to host twice as many tourists in 2021 compared to last year when the effect of coronavirus pandemic restrictions were more visible.
Further stating that they have analyzed whether there are any passenger changes in the post-pandemic period, Şener said that what they see is passengers quickly adapting to digital applications.
Digitalization has gained significant momentum in this period and was accepted by passengers, he said.
Şener stated that there will now be health security screening in addition to standard security at airports.
“We have seen that the aircraft interior and airports were very safe and healthy during the pandemic. There was no problem related to the pandemic spread,” he said.
One of the world's leading airport operators – TAV Airports operates Antalya Airport, Esenboğa Airport in the capital Ankara, Adnan Menderes Airport in western Izmir province, Milas-Bodrum Airport in Bodrum and Gazipaşa-Alanya Airport in Alanya near the touristic hotspot Antalya.
TAV also operates Kazakhstan's Almaty airport, Georgia's Tbilisi and Batumi airports, Tunisia's Monastir and Enfidha-Hammamet airports, Macedonia's Skopje and Ohrid airports, Saudi Arabia's Medina airport and Croatia's Zagreb airport.
The holding company is active in other areas of airport operations such as duty-free, food and beverage services, ground handling services, IT, security and management services. It also operates duty-free, food and beverage and other commercial areas at Latvia's Riga Airport.
The company's global footprint, together with the products and services of its subsidiaries, spans 91 airports across 26 countries.
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