Turkey's tourist guides were much more flexible and faster compared to their counterparts in the Mediterranean basin and EU member countries in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a senior sector member.
Sedat Bornovali, chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Tourist Guides, told Anadolu Agency that tourist guides in European countries said they were behind from such measures and directions.
Expressing that the rapid measures taken by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry have been very helpful, Bornovali said the ministry took precautions in museums and archaeological sites, and also published a circular on managing tourist guidance during the pandemic.
“So I can say that we've acted faster and much more flexibly than our competitors in the Mediterranean basin countries and EU members as we fight the pandemic,” he said.
Tourist guides are among the first groups affected by the outbreak, Bornovali stressed. Even before Turkey reported the first virus cases, there was a decline in the number of tourists arriving in the country, he said.
As touristic trips can be easily postponed due to their non-emergency travel type, many guides are now unemployed because of the drop in the number of tourists.
“First, guides studying Chinese became unemployed, due to legitimate concerns, as China's relations with the world has declined,” he said. “Then, tourists who did not know where infections might be seen started to cancel all their trips abroad.”
With the new normal, the tourism sector is also mobilized, Bornovali noted, saying Turkish tourist guides were trained on coronavirus measures via videos prepared by a member of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, Levent Yamanel.
Half of chamber members did not work in 2020
On a survey conducted by the chamber, Bornovali said: “More than half of our nearly 4,000 members who pay dues and receive their annual employment cards said they could not find any opportunity to work in 2020.”
“It is undoubtedly a very serious situation that more than half of the members of a profession have never been able to work,” he added.
Bornovali also said there were tourist guides who were infected and died due to COVID-19 before the virus was detected and taken under control at the desired level.
“Countries and social circles may have different tendencies to comply with the pandemic rules, as in other rules,” he said.
“In general, we can say that tourists traveling with a guide have a very high rate of compliance with the rules for the sake of the society, but I can say that it was almost never possible to prevent them from removing masks, albeit for a short time while taking selfies.”
The chamber, to protect its members from the pandemic, delivered their 2021 employment cards only by a courier with the principle of zero contact, Bornovali said, and noted that they also had a problem of “fake guides” in this process.
“After the transition to the new normal, we've seen fake guides living in our country and benefiting from curfews with their foreign passports. They tried to earn unfair income by doing unregistered work,” he stressed.
“This problem was solved as it emerged, by imposing fines through comprehensive inspections, while the governorship included our members with employment cards within the exception groups during the curfews.”
Image Credit: © AA
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