Putting its best foot forward, Turkey continues to promote its diverse palette of experiences. Panayiotis Markides reports.
According to the UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2015 report, Turkey is placed sixth in terms of most popular destination for international tourist arrivals, with the destination having welcomed 39.8 million international visitors in 2014.
However, despite Turkey’s strong appeal as a tourist destination, recent events have put a damper on its usual charm. The result has been that inbound travellers’ confidence has been adversely affected – evident in the recent cancellation by Celebrity Cruises of its overnight stops in Turkey, with other cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line following suit.
At the same time, Turkey as a whole has had its industry rocked with the loss of the key Russian market too.
Despite the dark clouds looming over the destination of late, the sun is breaking through the grey as Turkey displays healthy growth in new properties and fresh markets such as the Middle East, which are set to replace recently lost source markets.
Keen to relay that the newly-opened property will perform strongly in its debut year, general manager, Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Ataköy, Eylim Findik expressed confidence that one of the world’s most visited cities would not be adversely affected. “Istanbul is a popular destination which, I believe, will continue to attract foreign guests.” Commenting on guest safety she added that all Rezidor properties adhere to a four cornerstones policy: guest safety and security, employee safety and security, fire safety and operational security.
Also having recently opened a new property in Ataköy, the Cloud.7 Ataköy Marina Istanbul; CEO, Cloud.7 Hotels, Marloes Knippenberg relayed to TTG how the destination’s cosmopolitan nature draws in large numbers of young travellers.
She told TTG that the majority of hotel growth in the city has been in the four- and five-star segment. Knippenberg added that there were very few alternatives for the new, fast-moving and techsavvy global traveller seeking value. “With the demand for new concepts growing faster than supply, we believed that now was the right time to launch an affordable yet aspirational hotel brand starting in Istanbul.”
Meanwhile, highlighting the many sights that Istanbul has to offer, Findik stated that the 133- room Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Atakoy is a short drive from the Old City, where guests can explore Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque, as well as being near the business centre.
Turkey’s strong tourism growth is showcased in the west-coast destination of Kaplankaya. Part of the Kaplankaya development, the soon-to-open Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort Kaplankaya, will bring the renowned US-based Canyon Ranch brand to Turkey’s shores welcoming guests to its 141 guest rooms and suites.
Speaking exclusively to TTG, managing director, Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort Kaplankaya, Markus Iseli conveyed what will attract guests to the brand’s first foray outside the US. “Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya is the anchor brand of the new Kaplankaya development, located on the spectacular Turkish Riviera, near the city of Bodrum on the Aegean coast. The incredible natural beauty of the South Aegean coast coupled with the rich culture and history of the region are the perfect complement to the Canyon Ranch holistic wellness and lifeenhancement philosophy.”
He added that it boasts a unique location between both Europe and Asia. “In fact, there is a 5,000 year history of healing and wellness in this specific area,” Iseli commented. He remarked to TTG that as the focus of the property is wellness, it is set for prosperity: “In Turkey alone, [wellness] is expected to grow to $20 billion by the year 2021 as reported by the Turkish Ministry of Health.” Iseli said: “We will be placing a specific focus on both the European and the MENA markets, which are two of, if not the key markets for Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya.”
Bursa also attracts health-conscious travellers in search of its thermal baths and hot springs, as director of sales and marketing, Sheraton Bursa Hotel, Vuslat Dagli was keen to point out to TTG.
However, Bursa does not solely attract wellness enthusiasts, according to Dagli who revealed to TTG: “Bursa used to be the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.”
She added that for this reason, the hotel has many guests who are eager to transport themselves through the pages of history and visit the destination’s main cultural areas which date back to the early Ottoman period. “They love to feel the atmosphere of the Ottoman villages, waterfalls, and the tombs of the old city.” Other leisure guests are attracted to the hotel’s ski packages, Dagli noted. “We offer ski packages to our guests during the winter time because Uludag Mountain is right around the corner.”
Dagli informed TTG that the mountain is a favourite amongst locals and the lifts are just a 40 minute drive from the property. The hotel’s prominent location near Bursa city centre also ensures the hotel can cater impeccably to business guests. For this reason Dagli shared with TTG the various segments the property is looking to attract this year include transient, corporate, group leisure, sport teams, SMERF (Social, Military, Religious and Fraternal travellers) and tour series, adding that MENA, leisure and corporate are the focus for 2016.
A world unto itself, Cappadocia is renowned for its unearthly geology. In addition, the destination boasts a highly unique accommodation which allows travellers to experience the underground dwellings for which the region is famous.
Director, Gamirasu Cave Hotel, Ibrahim Bastutan explained that the 35-room boutique property is set in the rock formations.
“Cappadocia is a perfect honeymoon destination with cultural and unique experiences,” he said. Indeed he explained to TTG about the myriad of activities that guests can take part in during their stay. These include exploring traditional Turkish village life and culinary tours; hot air balloon flights; horse riding or ATV driving in the valleys. Bastutan also informed TTG that the hotel provides guests with sightseeing tours to attractions such as Kaymakli Underground City.
Turkey’s touristic success hinges not only on its rich heritage and culture, but on tourism stakeholders capitalising on these popular attributes and keeping up the momentum.