The Law Amending the Law on the Incentivizing of Tourism and Certain Laws No. 7334 ("Law"), published in the Turkish Official Gazette on 28 July 2021, made significant changes to Law No. 2634 on Tourism Incentivizing. The much-debated amendments are available here (in Turkish).
Establishing tourism services management associations
Tourism services management associations will be established in cooperation with the private sector to protect, develop and realize social and technical infrastructure, and to operate culture and tourism preservation and development zones approved by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism ("Ministry").
Certifying tourism establishments
One of the most important changes brought by the Law is related to the certification of tourism establishments to ensure that accommodation facilities have minimum standards and that they are under the supervision of the Ministry.
Before the Law, it was not mandatory to obtain a tourism establishment certificate and having a certificate was only a prerequisite to benefit from the incentives regulated under Law No. 2634 on Tourism Incentivizing. Therefore, establishments operating in the sector and not considering benefiting from the incentives continued their activities without obtaining a tourism establishment certificate. With the Law, accommodation facilities and independent beach establishments that do not include accommodation are required to obtain a tourism establishment certificate.
In the new era, accommodation facilities will have to obtain a tourism establishment certificate from the Ministry within one year of the date of obtaining a workplace opening and operating license. Accommodation facilities that continue their activities without a tourism establishment certificate before the Law came into force will be able to obtain a simple accommodation tourism establishment certificate within one year of the effective date of the Law. However, facilities with simple accommodation tourism establishment certificates will not be able to benefit from tourism incentives and tourism loans, and they will be subject to the distance rules and restrictions set by the Public Health Law and the Primary Education and Education Law regarding selling and licensing alcoholic beverages.
Accommodation and beach establishments that cannot obtain the tourism establishment certificate and the simple accommodation tourism establishment certificate within the set period will not be able to operate, and their workplace opening and operating licenses will be canceled within one month by the authorized administration upon the notification to be made by the Ministry.
Authorities of the President regarding determining tourism centers and culture and tourism preservation and development zones
With the Law, certain limitations - such as maintaining the public interest and balancing preserve use - were imposed on the President's authorities to determine culture and tourism preservation and development zones, which were already under the authority of the President.
With the Law, the definition of "tourism centers" was amended. It is regulated that only areas outside the culture and tourism preservation and development zones can be designated tourism centers. In addition, certain restrictions were imposed on the areas to be determined and announced as tourism centers: (i) if they are forestland to be of public interest; and (ii) to be Treasury immovables or from places under the jurisdiction and disposal of the state where it is possible to be registered.
In addition, exceptions, exemptions and incentives such as state aids in loan interest, tax reduction supports and value-added tax refunds in building construction, which are included in Decision No. 2012/3305 on State Aids in Investments, will also be applied to tourism centers.
Zoning plans and privatization programs
Even before the Law was published, the Ministry was authorized to make, to have them made, to approve and to amend zoning plans of all sizes of the lands within tourism centers and culture and tourism preservation and development zones. With the Law, the procedures regarding the approval of the plans have been clarified. Accordingly, plan proposals of all scales regarding areas within tourism centers and culture and tourism preservation and development zones will be submitted to the Ministry. Further, only the plans approved by the Ministry will be sent to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization.
The Ministry will primarily be informed of the privatization scope and programs in tourism centers and culture and tourism preservation and development zones.
The works and transactions regarding the plans already submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization's approval before the effective date of the Law will be finalized by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization by obtaining the opinion of the Ministry. Thus, the Ministry will be able to directly control the construction in tourism regions.
Transferring contracts regarding allocated forest areas and national parks to the Ministry
With the Law, the allocation of areas to be used in tourism has been gathered under the authority of the Ministry, in line with the aim of making the procedures in the tourism sector uniform and more functional. Accordingly, the contracts regarding the areas allocated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in the past will be transferred to the Ministry. Accordingly, to transfer such contracts, the below conditions must be fulfilled:
- waiver of any lawsuits filed regarding the allocation in question
- absence of any debts
- application to the Ministry within one year
Upon the application, the Ministry will determine the price and allocation conditions again and a new contract will be concluded with the relevant establishments. At the end of the process, it will be ensured that all allocations are taken under the control of the Ministry and managed from a single authority. The procedures and principles regarding the transfer and adaptation of contracts are expected to be published by the Ministry in the near future.
Allocating public immovables
In the new era, the Ministry will have the authority to allocate public immovables to investors for tourism activities. Accordingly, the Ministry will allocate the below areas to investors:
- the areas within culture and tourism preservation and development zones
- the areas within tourism centers
- the areas in towns outside these zones and centers but that are located on the coast, and areas determined and announced in accordance with Law No. 2873 on National Parks and that are determined by the relevant ministry on which an accommodation facility is located or deemed appropriate to be built
- the immovables to be determined for marinas approved by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure
It is expected that the regulations regarding issues such as renting, operating or transferring the right of construction to third parties by the investors will be determined within the procedures and principles to be announced by the Ministry.
Obligation to give information
One of the important changes brought by the Law is the removal of the obligation to obtain the approval of the Ministry in cases where: (i) all of the investments or establishments are transferred, leased or given to an operator; (ii) there is a change in the company title or shareholding structure; and (iii) there is partial or complete change in the type of business. Instead of obtaining the Ministry's approval, it will be sufficient to notify the Ministry. However, it should be noted that the allocation conditions for the allocated immovables will be applied separately and generally; these conditions include the approval of the Ministry before the transfer or lease.
In addition to this amendment, certified establishments will be obliged to notify the Ministry of the data to be used in determining the indicators of the country's tourism for the purpose of statistical studies and usage in projects to be carried out by the Ministry, within the periods to be determined by the Ministry.
Finally, the Ministry will be authorized to impose an obligation on real and legal persons to obtain an electronic notification address for the notification of transactions related to their duties and to determine the procedures and principles for obtaining this address.
With the Law, the scope of the Ministry has been expanded. In addition, significant regulations and amendments have been put into effect to carry out administrative works and inspections in the tourism sector faster and more effectively. The amendments aim to facilitate the coordination between various ministries and institutions and to eliminate the problems in implementation.
In line with this purpose, the authorities and duties previously given to different ministries have been transferred to the Ministry, thus enabling the Ministry to be the only respondent for tourism enterprises instead of making many transactions before different ministries.
Companies and establishments working in the tourism sector should take appropriate measures to comply with their new obligations and, especially, to make the necessary applications to obtain a tourism establishment certificate.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.