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The Turkish Shoreline – Three major tourism cities

With 97% of its territory located in Asia and 3% in Europe, Turkey is located at the crossroads between East and West and offers a diversified and rich cultural and natural heritage that remind us of the different civilizations that have traversed it. Antalya, Izmir and Bodrum are three major tourism cities located near the Mediterranean and Aegean coastline that is also known as the Turquoise Coast. Turkish authorities have defined an ambitious tourism development program up to the year 2023 with an idea to developing alternative tourism and strengthening cooperation between the public and private sectors. At the same time, the country is experiencing a period marked by internal and external conflicts that are yielding an impact on the country’s economy and especially its tourism.

In 2015, Turkey was the sixth tourist destination worldwide, with 41.6 million international arrivals - 85% of which were foreign citizens and 15% Turkish citizens living abroad. At the time its international clientele came from three markets: Germany in the lead with 5.2 million visitors, while Russian clientele hold second place with 4.4 million tourists, but since the beginning of the year 2016, Georgia has held second place, representing 10% of its clientele (from January to May 2016). British clientele (2.6 million tourists) occupy third place on the podium. Foreign tourists spend an average of €715 per person, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute.

However, from January to May 2016, foreign arrivals in Turkey dropped by close to 22% in comparison with the same period last year, according to data from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. A setback which may be explained by the security concerns throughout the country and the wave of attacks –particularly one last January 12 in one of Istanbul’s tourist neighborhoods. Moreover, the destruction of a Russian airplane by two Turkish fighter planes near the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24, 2015 led to major diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Consequently, this event led to the drop in arrivals of Russian clientele who previously represented its second source market or 12% of its clientele in 2014. Recommendations from the States/Governments suggested taking measures of precaution.

The attempted coup on the night from July 15 to 16 marks another harsh blow for the country. Before this event, last February the Turkish government announced a national plan to help the sector. This program includes close to 79 million Euros in subventions for tourism actors. The government implemented a tourism development strategy leading up to 2023 further to the 9th schema for tourism development that covered the period 2007-2013. This project intends to define nine thematic zones in the country and to develop alternative tourism (spa, medical, mountain, golf, beach resort, and eco-tourism) at affordable prices. In the shoreline area, authorities hope to respond to the problems that have been provoked by mass tourism. Diversification of its offer seemed like a solution that could spread out tourist activity across the entire year. Investments are expected, such as the creation of theme parks and shopping malls. A policy to promote certain cities, including Izmir and Antalya, will be defined in order to valorize their cultural riches. The plan includes organizing more events and promotional/marketing campaigns for these territories.

Antalya, Bodrum and Izmir bear witness to an ancestral history. Settled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Taurus mountain range, today, Antalya is at the center of the Turkish Riviera. Its history dates back to 100,000 BC. It has many natural and archeological sites such as the Paleolithic Karain cave, as well as shoreline that stretches along some 600 km that makes beach tourism very popular. The diversity of its tourist offer allowed it to attract more than 10 million tourists last year. This city is also a destination for business clientele thanks to its Glass Pyramid congress and exhibition center that can welcome 2,400 people. 

Called Halikarnassos in ancient times, the first traces of Bodrum date back to 1000 BC. Located in Turkey’s southwest, on the Aegean Coast, the peninsula of Bodrum is 42 km long and offers a rich built heritage, including the vestiges of one of the seven wonders of the world: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Until the 20th century, the city grew as a small fishing port known for commerce in sponges. Today, it attracts international investors and has a hundred or so restaurants as well as a marina with 450 rings for large and small boats. This situation earned it the nickname of Turkish Saint Tropez. Throughout the year, Bodrum and the surrounding villages have 150,000 residents, but this population multiplies during the summer.

Izmir, the native land of the poet Homer and philosopher Heraclites, is the third largest city in the country; it offers a spa, beach resort and cultural tourism as well as many archeological sites. In 2014, it attracted close to 1.3 million visitors. These three cities offer cultural, thermal, religious and business tourism.

Turkey’s archeological or historical sites are favorite destinations for hosting events. Each year Antalya organizes cultural events such as the Festival of the Arts and Culture at the end of May (concerts, expositions, photography) as well as the Film Festival that has awarded Golden Oranges in October since 1964. Finally, the city hosts the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival and even an International Sand Sculpture Festival on Lara Beach in Antalya. Moreover, for 30 years, Izmir has organized an international festival (held this year from May 17 to June 25) and offers a series of cultural representations (theater, opera, ballet) by national and international artists. Finally, at Bodrum, Saint Peter’s Castle hosts the International Ballet Festival in August.

When it comes to accommodations, Turkey’s classification system makes a distinction between properties that correspond to an independent supply of low capacity properties that are licensed by municipalities and those properties that are registered with the Ministry of Tourism. The hotel groups with the strongest presence in the country are Wyndham Hotel Group, which has 48 units (three of which are in Antalya, three in Izmir and one in Bodrum). Starwood Hotels & Resorts, meanwhile, offers 16 hotels in Turkey (mostly under the Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton brands) and one is under development in Izmir- it is scheduled to open in March 2017. The operator has an extensive network throughout the country, and especially on the Mediterranean coastline. In 2015 Hilton Worldwide had 38 hotels in operation and 32 hotels in the pipeline in the country (12 of which under the Hilton Garden Inn brand and 9 under Hampton by Hilton). Last March, the Double Tree by Hilton brand opened its 10th property in Turkey. 23 properties are operated by Carlson Rezidor, with more than 4,000 rooms under development and or operational. AccorHotels operates 22 hotels.

Since the beginning of 2016, Turkey’s Revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell by close to 31% compared to the same period last year. This drop was caused by a 12.5 point drop in occupancy combined with an average daily rate down by close to 15%. The RevPAR at shoreline destinations is down by 19.7% with respect to the same period last year. Many hotel groups are still attracted by mid-term projects. Among the operations that took place in recent years, a 4-star property (381 rooms) located in Antalya was taken over by the German hotel group Maritim Hotelgesellschaft last April. It will be operated under the Maritim brand as the Maritim Hotel Saray Regency. Carlson Rezidoris also increasing its offer in the country through its midscale brand Park Inn; it has two addresses in Turkey. This year the group opened a unit in Ankara (114 keys) that has completed Istanbul’s offer: Istanbul Ataturk Airport (144 rooms). Meanwhile, in 2014 the operator Choice Hotels announced it wanted to develop 60 to 80 units in Turkey in the years to come. This announcement was marked by the opening of the Clarion Sisli (135 rooms). This year, the group added three units to its Turkish portfolio. In 2013, Marriott International opened its Renaissance Izmir Hotel (110 rooms) in the city of Izmir.

Recently, projects have been developed along the coast. In Belek, in the province of Antalya, the country’s biggest amusement park “The Land of Legends” opened in July 2016. This project was developed by Rixos Hotels in partnership with Emaar Properties DJSC and Dragone Productions. Its cost is estimated at 1 billion dollars. In Bodrum, the upscale hotel Caresse, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, operated by Starwood Hotels (67 rooms, 9 suites and villa) opened in July 2015. Moreover, the Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Kaplankaya (141 rooms), near Bodrum, is now open for reservations. As for Izmir, in 2015 the Hilton Garden Inn Izmir Bayrakli (197 rooms) opened its doors.

Among the projects in the pipeline, a 5-star hotel (288 rooms), located in Phaselis, near the city of Antalya, by the hotel chain Rixos, is running up against environmental restrictions in connection to coastal preservation. In Bodrum, the Mauritian group Lux is developing an upscale Lux Resort & Hotel (60 rooms) that should open in May 2017. This operation is further to the signature of a management contract between Lux Hotels & Resortsand MYC Partners to develop a mixed-use real estate project that will include 75 upscale residences including 25 operated by Lux.

The hotel supply in Turkey’s three leading tourism cities has a diversified offer. Bodrum has 112 hotels, 14 boutique-hotels, 14 independent apart-hotels, and 15 holiday villages. The province of Antalya, meanwhile, has 603 hotels, 39 independent apart-hotels, 7 properties with golf courses and 48 holiday villages. Finally, the province of Izmir has 111 hotels, 13 boutique-hotels, 7 spa resorts and 5 holiday villages. But today, with the difficulties the country is running into, close to 1,300 properties are currently on the market in Turkey, of which 400 are in the region of Antalya alone.

As part of its tourism development plan, Turkey hoped to welcome 50 million tourists by 2023. It remains to be seen whether or not the incidents that have taken place in the country in recent months have truly stunted the tourism dynamism being experienced by the country or if the amenities available along its coasts will carry more weight.

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