INTERVIEW: General manager, Fairmont Quasar Istanbul, Kai Winkler

Kai Winkler

Fairmont Quasar Istanbul’s general manager, Kai Winkler speaks to Tatiana Tsierkezou exclusively about Turkey’s tourism developments, the importance of the MENA market and game-changing travel trends.

TTG: First things first; how does Istanbul stand out as a travel destination? Why should global travellers choose this particular city?
Where Europe meets Asia and history meets innovation, there is a reason why Istanbul has always been one of Europe’s most dynamic cities. Home to both incredible monuments of Turkey’s Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman imperial pasts as well as thriving international art, music and nightlife scenes, and rich cuisine, Istanbul’s vast urban mosaic inspires Fairmont Quasar Istanbul.

With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Istanbul is the perfect city destination with its captivating blend of sights, sounds and colours. Admire magnificent mosques, atmospheric churches, intriguing museums and Sultans’ palaces or take to the waters of the Bosphorus to enjoy fresh fish overlooking the Black Sea. Explore the warren of streets in the Grand Bazaar or take in the heady scents of the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. And discover the metropolis of the moment that Istanbul is today with its stylish art galleries, world-class restaurants and electrifying nightclubs. They’re all here in one fascinating melting pot of a great 21st century city.

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TTG: Since last year, have there been any noteworthy tourism-related developments?
The number of foreign visitors to Turkey is expected to see a record-high in 2018, according to experts and politicians.

Nearly 7.8 million foreigners visited Turkey in the first four months of 2018, the Culture and Tourism Ministry announced. Turkey will see 40 million foreign visitors and its income will climb over $30 billion by the end of 2018, according to the president of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), Firuz Bağlıkaya.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city by population and one of its top tourist draws, saw the highest number of visitors, with nearly 3.9 million in the four-month period. The Mediterranean resort city Antalya came in second, with 1.06 million foreign visitors. Turkey expects 40 million tourists from abroad this year, according to private sector representatives and officials.

In addition; since its announcement in June of 2013 of the development of Istanbul New Airport, talk of the €10.2 billion new mega-hub has had the air transport industry captivated. It will be the most significant infrastructure developments ever to be undertaken in Turkey – a project that will propel the nation to the centre of the global aviation industry. In addition; Istanbul New Airport will have the capacity to handle 90 million passengers per year and deliver flights to more than 350 destinations across a far-reaching route network that will connect the world. Ultimately 150 million passengers per year will use this mega-hub aviation industry.

TTG: How are you working to entice the MENA market? Is this market of importance to you and have you been noticing an increase in these types of travellers?
According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, a lot of Middle Eastern tourists came to Turkey last year. The cultural connections, similar traditions and similar culinary scenes also play an important role here.

On another note, Istanbul is a city where Middle East and North African guests can find various types of shopping options as well as other attractions like museums, city events, galleries and more. The mild climate in Istanbul itself is another attraction point of the MENA guests.

Fairmont Quasar Istanbul is exceptionally centrally located making it an ideal base to explore Istanbul’s dazzling cultural mosaic and millennia of history. City icons such as the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are only 20 minutes by metro or cab ride away. So are Istanbul Modern Art Museum and Dolmabahçe Palace. The Bosphorus Strait, lined with fashionable nightclubs and quaint historic villages, is just a 15-minute cab ride from the hotel. In the very close vicinity, there are many shopping options, small colourful side streets to discover the true essence of local life.

TTG: Has Fairmont Quasar Istanbul attended any trade shows this year? If so, where have you been and what have you been promoting?
We have attended and are continuing to attend trade shows in Europe, the Middle East and Russia. Along with our hotel accommodation offerings, we also put a lot of emphasis on two of our restaurants: Aila, the Turkish restaurant, and the new Ukiyo Lounge & Bar, our Asian restaurant on the fifth floor of the hotel adjacent to the outdoor pool with mesmerising Bosphorus views.

As Ukiyo is the recent addition to our F&B offerings, these days we promote sushi nights on Thursdays and Pool Barbeque on Sundays.

TTG: Finally, have you picked up on any new travel trends throughout 2018? Fairmont’s heritage is built on a century-long tradition of turning moments into memories.At every touch point, from face-to-face relationships to our online communication, it’s crucial to add valuable service and to create an unforgettable guest experience. In the new era of the digital world, we are using all the digital and social platforms as the most important channels for direct communication, getting and evaluating feedback, and finally everlasting storytelling. Since user generated content is powerful and real, we value our guests’ stories and encourage them to engage, share and create compelling content related to their experience. Our purpose is to create an interactive environment where end-users can post photos, videos and special memories that will build on our social media and digital presence.