Visa refusal spike stalls Turkish tour companies, says sector rep

The increasing rejection rate for Schengen visa applications from Turkish citizens has brought the operations of tour companies to a grinding halt, according to a prominent industry representative.

"As of 2024, even being able to apply for a visa is a success... We don't know exactly what percentage of those who requested a visa were able to make an appointment," said Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) head Firuz Bağlıkaya.

Bağlıkaya lamented the challenges faced by tour operators as the rejection rate for Turkish visa applications nearly doubled in recent years. His concerns were underscored by newly released statistics from the European Commission, revealing that the rejection rate for Turkish visa applications surged from 9.7 percent in 2019 to 16.1 percent in 2023.

One of the issues highlighted by Bağlıkaya is the refusal of visa intermediary institutions to accept applications from travel agencies involved in international tour sales. Consequently, this has effectively brought the business of tour operators to a standstill, significantly impacting their ability to organize tours abroad, he said.

"Not granting a visa may be the country's own policy, but not being able to even apply for a visa really creates a big problem," Bağlıkaya stated.

"What was once touted as a security and quota issue has now turned into a humanitarian problem. People are being denied the freedom to travel."

Meanwhile, appointments for U.S. visa applications for first-time applicants could be deferred until October 2025, posing additional hurdles for Turkish travelers seeking alternative destinations.

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