Thousands of travelers are canceling their holidays to Turkey. After the announcement of the UK government that Turkey is added to the quarantine list.
The announcement was tweeted by transport secretary Grant Shapps. Stating that all arrivals into the UK from Turkey will have to self-isolate for 14 days from 4 am on 3 October. Moreover, Poland and the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, St Eustatius, and Saba are also in the quarantine list.
Shapps justified the move by saying that the Turkish Health Ministry had been “defining the number of new COVID cases in a different way to the definition used by international organizations such as WHO and ECDC”.
However, there was a spike in bookings for Turkey. As other popular holiday destinations were added to the list last month. It includes several Greek islands and Portugal.
However, Turkey had not been considered a likely contender for quarantine measures, as case numbers were 12.9 per 100,000 over the previous seven days, significantly below the 20 per 100,000 the UK government regards as criteria for quarantine.
There are an estimated 10,000 UK holidaymakers in Turkey at the moment and a further 40-50,000 due to travel there in the next month, according to Paul Charles of travel consultancy the PC Agency. Tour operators have already begun canceling large numbers of bookings.
Thomas Cook has removed holidays to Turkey (along with Poland) from the sale. Customers can get a refund on trips, postpone, or change destination.
TUI is canceling all holidays up to and including 3 October. It is updating any customers due to travel from 4-15 October.
Moreover, Jet2 is suspending the sale of the country and canceling all package holidays up to and including 17 October. And giving refunds to all customers whose flights are canceled or receive £100 off if they rebook. Flight-only customers can rebook without a fee.
“It’s devastating. We’ve already seen cancellations since last night for customers booked from October to January,” said director Ali Keskin. “Other customers who are there now want to come back already. So we are working with chartered flights to get them home.”
“We are a small independent tour operator, Turkey specialists, it’s our biggest market. But it’s out of our hands. Most of the countries we sell are on the government quarantine list, so we don’t know where we are going to sell.”
Keskin says that many of the independent hotels it works with face an uncertain future, with some having already closed.
The Struggling Holidaymakers
Since Thursday’s announcement, many holidaymakers have struggled to find earlier flights home in order to avoid quarantine. It includes Amanda Matthews, managing director of travel agency Designer Travel. She says that although quarantine exemption is never certain, Turkey looked like the safest option.
“Last night, the news rippled through the whole hotel,” Matthews said, “Everyone’s mouths were open in disbelief. Even the staff. You realize these decisions have such a massive impact. Some of the hotels will have to close, people won’t have jobs and won’t have enough money to even live.”
“I immediately went online to get earlier flights home, but it was impossible. It’s illogical – there are people here by the pool that are leaving today that won’t have to quarantine, but I’m leaving tomorrow and I will have to. Why can’t you arrive home, self-isolate, order a test online and wait five days for the results, rather than 14 days?”
“We are nearing the end of the season, and Turkey was an attractive destination for late summer. The sector would have been hoping for a revenue boost for half-term, but that’s getting more difficult now there are very few places left on the list,” said Paul Charles who is calling for a testing roadmap to help boost consumer confidence for 2021.
“This is why we need a testing alternative,” he added. “If the government completely shuts off travel, it won’t help the industry or economy recover. The longer it takes to have a roadmap for testing the more damage we will see to travel in 2021”.