An employee at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet Hotel disinfects a room while checking the hotel’s readiness for the Healthy Tourism Certificate Program, which travelers will receive despite the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Istanbul, Turkey, on REUTERS / Umit on 21 Bektas

ISTANBUL, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Turkish hotels are deeply in debt and need “serious assistance” to repay their loans as they recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Turkish Hotel Association (TUROB) said on Wednesday.

At a meeting on the sector’s prospects, Muberra Eresin said the association would meet with the Turkish Banking Association in the coming days to discuss the debt problem.

Hotels need to shift their payment rates, she said.

Turkey’s tourism sector powers more than 10% of the economy and attracts hard currencies that are essential for making up a large trade deficit. Foreign arrivals recovered strongly this year from up to last year, but remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

While the Russian market has performed well, Germany’s high risk rating of Turkey hurt the sector last month. Britain’s red list for Turkey – which ended just last week – hit hotels that rely heavily on the UK market.

TUROB’s Eresin said the average occupancy of hotels that opened this season was 44% for the first eight months of the year, compared to 67% for all hotels in 2019.

She said 20% of Istanbul hotels are still closed due to the pandemic and plan to open early next year.

Reporting by Ceyda Caglayan; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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