Corona-free travel abroad: Turkish authorities, businesses develop massive anti-COVID-19 system for safe tourist season
UNIAN has checked how the airport, hotels and tourist attractions in Turkey ensure antiviral safety. In our opinion, it is much less possible to contract the coronavirus there than in Ukraine.
Turkey has become the first tourist destination for citizens of Ukraine that has re-opened its borders for vacationers without any inconvenience associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ankara and Kyiv have agreed that, upon arrival on the Turkish coast or upon returning home, Ukrainians without flu symptoms would not have to undergo mandatory testing for the coronavirus or self-isolate.
Everyone will be able to undergo testing for the coronavirus right at Turkish airports. For the passengers whose body temperature will exceed 37.8 degrees Celsius, such testing is mandatory.
The Turkish authorities, airports and representatives of the tourism sector have done considerable work to ensure that those who arrive in Turkey feel safe without being afraid of spending a vacation in the country. At the same time, according to UNIAN's observations, all security measures are designed and implemented the way they cause no trouble for vacationers.
So, tourists arriving at Dalaman Airport, unlike the case at Kyiv's Boryspil, do not have to have their body temperature checked individually, which causes queues and slows passengers leaving the plane. In Turkey, all passengers are screened by a highly sensitive camera that measures their body temperature. It highlights passengers with a fever on the screens monitored by airport security personnel. People with elevated body temperatures are immediately taken out of the flow moving towards passport control – thus, minimizing any possible contact time of the "feverish" traveler with others. By the way, those who want to leave the plane will have to wear a face mask. It is clear that it is not allowed to move around the airport without a face mask on. It is important to clarify here: although airlines require that passengers should have a mask while on board the plane, some travelers try to remove their personal protective equipment (or lower it below the nose) during the flight. In particular, the author of this material had to remind a fellow traveler about the mask twice during the flight — flight attendants do not always have time to notice such cases. However, a representative of the airport stands right at the exit of the plane to control how those who have just arrived observe the anti-virus rules.
The entire airport is covered by info posters in different languages that explain precautions against the spread of not only COVID-19, but also other infectious diseases. They also tell you about the symptoms of coronavirus disease. All crowded places – queues for passport control, baggage claim areas, check-ins for flights and so on – have floor markings for social distancing. There are also shoe sanitizing floor mats everywhere.
All luggage arriving at the airport (and being loaded from the airport to the aircraft) undergoes thorough disinfection. The only inconvenience tourists encounter in connection with this is that they have to wait a little longer for luggage in the baggage reclaim area, so, as UNIAN was convinced, there is no particular need to rush "in the forefront" for passport control. True, some guests from Ukraine are trying to habitually ignore the necessary social distancing and form groups with shorter than needed distance, however, in this case, the safety of passengers is entirely in their hands. Airport staff tirelessly reminds everyone to follow signs and rules, and, in the end, most vacationers still line up as the markings say.
From time to time, ventilation starts working at full capacity in the terminal building – it forcibly refreshes and filters the air.
At the exit from the airport, those who have come to Turkey are met by taxi drivers – all wear face masks. Buses provided by tour operators have drivers wearing masks, tourists are also allowed inside if they have masks on their faces (although some Ukrainian tourists, according to journalists' observations, try to ignore own safety and that of people around them and attempt to remove or lower the mask below the nose as soon as they enter public transport. The Turks give a kind reminder to tourists with such a carefree attitude).
On the return flight from Dalaman Airport, the health safety monitoring scheme for travelers is a bit more similar to that in Boryspil – before accessing the airport's general lobby with check-in desks, passengers need to go through the initial security control – pass a metal detector frame and X-ray luggage (flight check-in is followed by more stringent security control before one gets into the airport lounge). Immediately after the metal detector, each passenger has his or her body temperature checked with a non-contact digital thermometer. However, the Turkish side has taken better care for passengers' comfort, as people waiting for initial security control stand in lines with social distancing markings inside the airport's air-conditioned building, so travelers do not wait for security procedures in the hot sun or in the rain, as it is in Boryspil Airport where people have to stand in the crowd outdoors, waiting for permission to enter the airport's building.
Hand sanitizers at the airport are available all around, so this routine can be performed anywhere at any time – at check-in counters, in restrooms, duty-free shops, or cafes. Disposable face masks are also available at the airport.
Outside the airport, Turkey also pleases the eye with a more serious attitude to anti-virus safety than, for example, the case in Ukraine. On the streets, most people wear face masks, all the service workers Ukrainian journalists had to communicate with in the cities of Dalaman, Dalyan and Marmaris worked and interacted with customers when having personal protective equipment. In many facilities of the service sector, hotels and government buildings in Turkey, one could get a free disposable mask right at the entrance, and there are publicly available sanitizers at every corner. Advertising facilities, like lightboxes and billboards, in Turkish cities inform in different languages about individual measures to counter COVID-19.
"Everything on our beaches is arranged the way that people could stay there, observing a safe distance. And, of course, the national and regional authorities have made sure that face masks and sanitizers are available to absolutely everyone," Mayor of the popular tourist city of Marmaris Mehmet Oktay said.
Hotels in Turkey have addressed tourists' safety particularly scrupulously. It goes without saying that each guest has his or her body temperature measured during check-in; at the hotels, hand sanitizers and boxes with free face masks are placed all around.
At Hilton Dalaman Sarıgerme Resort & Spa, where Ukrainian journalists were staying, one can get into restaurants only while wearing a face mask and after additional body temperature checks.
If a visitor has left his or her mask in the room, it's not a problem as there are dozens of mask receiving points all around the hotel and hand sanitizers are available everywhere, even in elevators.
What is more, the buffet, a traditional catering format at hotels, is still there but the food now is protected by a glass shield separating it from visitors. The food is served by personnel wearing personal protective equipment and gloves – one just needs to mention what dish or product is needed. Just in case, even the area where one can get food cooked at high temperatures for individual visitors is separated by a glass shield.
"We disinfect every suitcase of arriving guests before it is delivered to the room. Rooms undergo complete disinfection with ozone during daily cleaning. Twice a day, we disinfect furniture, including that located outdoors – in our bars and restaurants," says Tunç Batum, General Manager of Hilton Dalaman Sarıgerme Resort & Spa.
The measures taken are so serious that even, for example, remote controls from the TV are disinfected, and packaged in sealed bags. The same is with flatware and other items – two different hotel guests cannot virtually use any item without prior disinfection.
"We did our best to make tourists feel safe and be actually safe," says Hamdi Güvenç, member of the Board of Directors of the YDA Group of Companies that operates Dalaman Airport. "And we are really looking forward to guests from Ukraine!"
"Our government agencies, insurance companies and medical institutions are also ready to respond to any possible incidents and provide all necessary assistance. To come to visit our country is really as safe as possible," adds Hüseyin Arslan, Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Mugla Region and Chairman of the YDA Group. "Moreover, Turkey and Ukraine are actually fraternal states, our citizens can travel between the countries, using an internal ID card – one does not even need a foreign travel passport. And we tell all Ukrainians: 'Welcome!'"
All in all, UNIAN has gained the most positive general impression after visiting hotels, catering establishments, pleasure boats, and airports in Turkey. That country, being popular with tourists, has adopted a much more serious approach to the fight against the coronavirus than, unfortunately, Ukraine does. An additional benefit is the almost complete absence of Russians, and in fact, there is an unusually low number of vacationers there. This makes it possible to enjoy almost empty beaches and easily observe social distancing there. This all, coupled with impressive discounts due to a general decline in the flow of tourists, offers viable alternatives to spending summer holidays in picturesque Zalizny Port, Ukraine's Kherson region, or the city of Odesa crowded with violators of the quarantine rules.
Judging by the record growth in the number of charter flights between Turkey and Ukraine that have been carried out for a week already, first thousands of Ukrainians have already appreciated the newly opened prospects. And there are still several months before the season ends.
Mikhail Gannytskyi, photos provided by the author
The editorial team thanks the Office of the Counsellor for Cultural Affairs and Promotion under the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Ukraine and Travel Press Club Ukraine for organizing the trip