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A New Era is on the Horizon for the Tourism Sector

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After amendments were made to Law No. 2634 on Incentivizing of Tourism (“Law“) on 28 July 2021, some changes were expected in the secondary legislation concerning the tourism sector. In this context, the Regulation on the Amendment of the Regulation on Qualifications of Tourism Facilities published in the Official Gazette dated 30 December 2021 and numbered 31705 (“Regulation“) and the Communique on  the Amendment of the Communiqué on Application of the Regulation on the Qualifications of Tourism Facilities published in the Official Gazette dated 31 December 2021 and numbered 31706 (“Communique“) brought some changes regarding the matters on conditions applicable to the tourism facilities and the tourism operation certificates.

What do the Regulation and Communiqué say?

The Communiqué envisaged significant changes within the scope of the applications for the tourism operation certificate and the amendment of the documents. According to this:

  • Workplace opening and operating license: Before the amendment, the workplace opening and operating licenses with conditions such as “prepared based on declaration,” “temporary” and “partial” were not deemed acceptable for the tourism operation certificate applications. By these amendments, workplace opening and operating licenses that state the condition of being “issued based on the building registration permit” can be used to apply for the tourism operation certificate.
  • However, an important aspect of this regulation is that this condition only applies to facilities that are not established within state-owned lands. Accordingly, workplace opening and operating licenses with the condition “issued based on the building registration permit, “cannot be used for the tourism operation certificate applications by facilities located on allocated public lands. Additionally, the Communiqué also enables the presentation of more than one workplace opening and operating license for facilities built on more than one parcel and with more than one workplace opening and operating license in their tourism operation certificate applications.
  • Failure to comply with the minimum scores and qualifications specified for type and class in the certification audit: If tourism facilities want to convert their tourism investment certificates or partial tourism operation certificates into tourism operation certificates, or if they want to directly obtain a tourism operation certificate or partial tourism operation certificate, they are subject to an audit process under the certification. In this audit, tourism facilities must achieve a certain minimum score and have certain qualifications for their specific class and type. The amendment stipulates that if a certified facility fails to provide the minimum score and/or qualifications appropriate for its class and type during audits, a three-month period will be provided for the facility to satisfy these conditions. If the minimum score and qualification requirements are met within three months, the process will be carried out; otherwise, the applications will not be accepted and the existing tourism operation certificates will be cancelled. The process will work similarly when a facility provide its qualifications, but fails to meet the mininmum score conditions. For facilities that meet the minimum score condition but fail to meet some of their qualification standards, only the insufficient qualification standards will be checked if the facility applies for a second evaluation within three months. If the facility does not reapply within three months, then the qualifications will be checked and if qualifications are met, a re-evaluation will be made in accordance with the standards set out in the evaluation form. If the qualifications are not met, the application will be rejected without any re-evaluation. For facilities located on assigned public lands, the time to make up for the deficiencies will be determined by the Department of Land Allocation and will be at least three months.
  • Additional provisions regarding notes on the tourism operation certificates: If the title of the owner of the tourism operation certificate is changed, it will be sufficient to submit an application petition and documents related to the sub-operator instead of the formerly required statement of signature and the name registration certificate. In addition, the opinion of the evaluation board was always sought in advance for the requests of a tenant/operator annotation regarding the certificate transfer or the main area of activity. However, with the recent changes, if the local audit concludes that the basic physical and operational characteristics are preserved, the relevant annotation will be approved without being submitted to the evaluation board’s opinion.
  • For facilities that must make arrangements on accessibility: Facilities with pools will need to install pool lifts for their disabled customers. In addition, beach facilities that do not have a pier will provide handicapped beach chairs. The number of chairs should be 1% of the total capacity minimum. Businesses will need to take these measures by 31 December 2022 at the latest. If the relevant businesses do not comply with this new measure, they may face, following a warning, an administrative penalty.
  • In cases where the certificate name and the name used in practice are not the same: If the name of the facility stated in the tourism operation certificate does not match the name used, the owner must apply within 30 days for the name change, or agree to use the name in its tourism operation certificate. Otherwise, the owner of the certificate will be notified on the change to the name used. If the Ministry of Culture and Tourism finds the used name inappropriate, the owner will either use the name in their certificate or apply for a new name within 30 days.
  • Other amendments specific to certain facility types: Besides the amendments set out above, changes were made for the documents requested from specific groups of facilities for their tourism operation certificate applications. In this context:
    • The application for gastronomy facilities may now include professional qualification certificates or mastery certificates of the partners of gastronomy facilities rather than internationally accredited gastronomy and cookery diplomas.
    • General information and documents describing the characteristics of the facility will also be requested from special facility businesses.
    • Applications of gastronomy facilities that do not comply with the hall and kitchen areas criteria specified in the Regulation on the Qualifications of Tourism Facilities will be rejected immediately,
    • Applications of gastronomy, private facilities and private accommodation facilities used to require a five- to seven-minute-long video that includes night and day shots. This requirement is removed, and wide/horizontal format shooting showing all areas of the facility are now deemed sufficient.
    • Except for boutique hotels and private accommodation facilities, accommodation facilities with less than 15 rooms that have tourism operation certificates and beach facilities with tourism operation certificates will have their tourism operation certificates annotated with a statement that underlines them being within the scope of the Law’s fifth article and its eighth sub-section.

The Regulation, also brought several changes regarding the tourism operation certificate (which are obligatory for accommodation facilities) and swimming pools. According to this:

  • The procedure of the rejected requests will not be applied to accommodation facilities: The provisions foreseen for the subsequent requests of the facilities, whose first tourism operation certificate request was found not appropriate or for the first classification requests of the certified businesses, will not be applied for the tourism operation certificate requests of the accommodation facilities. This exception has been brought in line with the requirement that accommodation facilities, with the recent amendments to the Law, need to obtain a tourism operation certificate within one year at the latest.
  • Exception to the children’s swimming pool requirement: The requirement to establish a children’s pool in facilities with swimming pools will no longer be applied to facilities that accept customers aged 12 and over if the facilities also inform their customers of this matter. This is applicable for the foregoing facilities unless these facilities’ respective marketing and operation policy changes.

Conclusion

The Regulation and the Communiqué, together with the new system introduced in the recently amended Law, shed light on how the activities of the tourism sector will be regulated in the future. Secondary legislation is also evolving in line with the Law amendment, which aims to effectively manage all processes related to the tourism sector through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The aim of the sector to again reach 2019 figures in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era is supported by these changes, and the aim to increase tourism investment does not go unnoticed.