Quite a few of us were probably shocked but, at the same time, not all that surprised by the news about Ukraine yesterday morning.
The storm has been building for some time now but, just the same, when it finally broke it left many of us stunned by its rapidity and, naturally, by the realisation of the reality faced by those in the path of Russian attacks.
But then, of course, our thoughts tend to turn first of all to what we can do about it and then, inevitably, to what it means for us.
For example, if you’re a UK resident and have a summer holiday booked, will it put your break in jeopardy? If you’re a resident in the Fethiye region, are we going to feel the shockwaves?
There are few definitive answers right now as events are still unfolding; indeed, events on the northern shores of the Black Sea are likely to remain pretty fluid for the weeks – even months – to come.
However, having done some reading, here’s what we think we can tell you:
Turkey’s travel bosses say they’ve already noticed a sharp decline in bookings, particularly among Ukrainians but also among Russians. Nationals from both countries make up a hefty percentage of the headcount in resorts including Bodrum, Antalya and Alanya – many of whom helped to shore up tourism in 2021 when Europeans stayed away.
If the current trends continue, we could see the reverse in 2022 – but it all depends on how willing Europeans are to travel.
Here in Fethiye though, the picture looks a little more positive. Advanced bookings for the summer – particularly in Britain – are already up considerably and there’s no reason to believe the conflict in Ukraine will change that.
The rest depends on how events unfold. Turkey’s tourism chiefs reckon, if the fighting is over quickly, Russia will revert to normal quite quickly – even fast enough to see tourists return to Turkey in 2022. The situation in Ukraine may be different, particularly if the country’s infrastructure is extensively battle-damaged.
Internal security in Turkey has been relatively high since the failed coup in 2016. The state of emergency imposed in its wake has since been relaxed but if you’re a European, you may still find armed checkpoints on major roads a little disconcerting.
It’s no secret that Turkey also has issues with separatists Kurds, blamed not only for terror incidents and attacks on security forces along the borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq but even for the wildfires along the Mediterranean and Aegean coastline last summer.
The conflict in Ukraine is unlikely to add an extra dimension but it could lead to internal tensions if even more refugees begin arriving on Turkey’s borders.
The country’s political leaders are already at odds with each other over immigration policies. An additional flood of refugees could heighten tensions further.
However, as Turkey is seen as a partner state by both Ukrainians and Russians, neither is likely to sanction any hostile act towards Turkey itself – at least not at the moment.
But not only is Turkey trying to steer a precarious diplomatic course between Ukraine and Russia, it is also a member of NATO, which seems likely to impose stiff sanctions on the latter.
It is notoriously difficult to have a foot in both camps and, at the same time, not to leave yourself exposed.
This is perhaps the toughest challenge for Turkey, where many are already struggling to make ends meet in the face of soaring inflation.
Energy prices have doubled, food and drink are increasingly expensive and the price of renting or buying a home have also rocketed – even within the coronavirus years.
Ukraine was the source of some cheap imports – a source which could now possibly be lost. Russia was a market for Turkish goods and also the source of much of its gas – the latter having worrying implications should Putin be angered by Turkey doing too much kowtowing to its NATO partners.
Turkey has also been hobbled of late by a sudden and dramatic downturn in the performance of the Turkish lira on the international money markets. It’s been widely reported that the currency lost 40% of its value in the latter part of 2021 and has done little to recover since.
Another wobble over tourism and the potential for even higher energy costs are therefore hugely unwelcome right now.
Many Turks will tell you high inflation means they’re already struggling to pay for even the basics; however, for visitors of for those with Sterling, US dollars or Euros in the bank, the lira’s poor performance means their money goes a lot further. Survival could therefore rely on one supplementing the other.
Featured photo: Kyiv inhabitants leave the city after pre-offensive missile strikes by the Russian and Belarus armed forces. Pierre Crom/Getty