2019 was a year of all time highs in Turkish tourism and 2020 was poised to be another great year as we had achieved 13% growth in international passengers in the first two months of the year. However, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to Europe which is our main source market, one after another, authorities started restricting flights to and from the airports that we operate starting with the last week of February and airlines started grounding their planes due to cancelled flights. By the fourth week of March the international traffic in our airports dropped almost to zero.
The guidance that we disclosed for 2020 is thus no longer valid and due to the uncertainties regarding the duration of the said precautions, we cannot share a revised guidance for 2020 at this time. However, as soon as the uncertainty regarding the duration of flight restrictions disappears we intend to disclose revised 2020 guidance.
Since this is a force majeure event, we have contacted the aviation authorities to officially notify them that a force majeure event has happened and we would like to start discussions on how to compensate for the consequences of this unforeseeable and uncontrollable event that has affected all of our traffic. At the present we do not expect much international traffic until June and we have stopped all non-emergency capital expenditures. We have also made substantial cuts to our operating expenditures to weather the financial impact of this period. Since most of our terminals are almost 100% closed, we were able to make significant savings on terminal operation costs. We have also scheduled all of our employees and management to take one third of each coming month as unpaid leave until traffic restarts. The periods of unpaid leave are supported by Short Working Allowance in Turkey for 3 months and differing levels of governmental support is provided for our operations in other countries. With these measures we have achieved a substantial decrease in our operating expenditures for the zero traffic period.
We have entered this crisis with a strong balance sheet and I can easily say that in the global aviation sector we are one of the very few companies who are ready to take on the challenges of this new period and emerge stronger at the end. To this end, we are continuing the share purchase negotiations for Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan which we believe will be a great addition to our portfolio due to its unlimited operating period, defensive characteristics and significant growth potential. We are also very close to finalizing the debt restructuring discussions in Tunisia which will unlock material value for our shareholders.
Since we believe that the price extremes caused by market volatility created by the pandemic do not reflect the true value of our shares at all, we started buying our shares back on Borsa Istanbul for which we have earmarked up to 200 million Turkish Lira.
We have weathered many similar crises in the past. This one is the longest and the deepest so far but we will emerge out of this crisis even stronger. I would like to thank all our employees, shareholders and business partners for their unending support in this trying period.