Murat Karakus, director of tourism of Turkey's Ministry of Tourism and Culture, recently stopped by our New York offices to tell us what’s new new in the nation’s travel sector, from a bevy of hotel openings to the launch of the biggest airport in Europe. Here are some of the highlights he discussed.
Topping the agenda was news of a new international airport in Istanbul which, when it opens in 2017, will be the largest in Europe. With three runways, the capacity is estimated to be 90 million passengers per year to begin, eventually rising to 150 million. The new airport will be 35 kilometers from the center of Istanbul, and it will replace Atatürk Airport, providing extra capacity to support the growth of Turkish Airlines' operations.
There are several new hotels that have just recently opened in Turkey, as well as many set to debut later this year.
The Soho House Istanbul just opened this spring, and is located in the Beyoglu district. It was originally built in 1873 and spans three buildings, including the Palazzo Corpi, once the first U.S. government-owned diplomatic premises in the world. Soho House is decorated with both modern and vintage styles and has 88 guestrooms, several club spaces and multiple rooftop pools.
The St. Regis Istanbul is also open, set in the Nişantaşi neighborhood on the European side of the city. It offers deluxe guestrooms, as well as several different styles of suites, all decorated with contemporary décor and furnished by Turkish artwork from the Demsa art collection.
Located on the coast of the Black Sea and just minutes from the city’s center is the Sheraton Samsun Hotel. The property offers guests access to the Atatürk Palace of Culture, the Archaeological and Atatürk Museum, and the Samsun 19 Mayıs Stadium. It is the first international five-star hotel in the city of Samsun, and is Starwood Hotels’ eleventh property in Turkey.
Sheraton also just opened the Sheraton Istanbul Atasehir, a 160-room hotel located near the Istanbul Finance Center and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. It caters especially to business travelers, with 5,000 square meters of meeting space, as well as a 1,067-square-meter grand ballroom.
Set to open later this year is the Mondrian Istanbul, a Morgans Hotel Group property. It will have several bars and restaurants, meeting and conference spaces, and a renovated spa which was originally an existing historic Turkish bath (hamam). The property will have an “old Hollywood” style, and is located near the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultanahmet Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar.
Slated to open in 2016 in Cesme is a new Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts property, near Alacati on the Aegean coast.
Also, Fairmont Istanbul is scheduled to open in 2016. The property will be part of the Quasar Istanbul Complex, a new mixed-use development in the Sisli district. The Fairmont Hotel and Fairmont Residences will be set in two 41-story towers, along with Quasar Residences and offices. Fairmont Istanbul will offer several meeting spaces and lounges, as well as a historic distillery repurposed as a culture and arts, and an urban park.
Hotels that opened in 2014 include:
- Raffles Istanbul
- Mandarin Bodrum
- DoubleTree by Hilton
- The House Hotel Vault Karakoy
The airline industry is undergoing several developments in correlation with Turkey’s booming hospitality industry.
Turkish Airlines launched a new route from San Francisco, CA, to Istanbul in April. The new routes include five flights per week, and the airline is scheduled to increase the daily departures beginning May 11, 2015. Turkish Airlines was chosen "Best Airline in Europe," "Best Airline in Southern Europe" and awarded "Best Business Class Onboard Catering," and "Best Business Class Lounge Dining" in the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards. It is the fourth year in a row that the airline was awarded the title.
Delta Air Lines is also increasing the number of seats it offers on its Istanbul and New York JFK flight for the summer 2015 season, and will resume its daily service beginning June 17, 2015, with an almost 30 percent increase in flights compared to 2014.
In addition, Antalya Gazipaşa Airport in Turkey opened a new terminal building as part of the airport’s expansion program. The terminal covers 69,000 square feet, three times the size of the original building. TAV Airports operates Gazipaşa Airport’s new terminal, which has additional aircraft parking areas, and new X-ray and passport counters. The expansion has increased the airport’s annual capacity, and is now able to accommodate 1.5 million passengers.
Economy and History
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture also says it is setting its sights on the future of Turkey’s economy.
In the past decade, the state increased its economy to $820 billion, making it the seventeenth largest economy in the world. However, a previously "fragmented approach" to the country’s promotion across the world’s regions have “prevented the country’s image from keeping pace with its economic and cultural growth.”
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism sees the closing of that gap as its most important priority in the coming years. It hopes to do that through worldwide promotion, advertising, public relations activities and cultural projects.
Turkey is one of the most diverse states in the world, not only because its geographic location which acts as a bridge between eastern and western cultures, but also because of its rich history, and extensive archeology. The nation has cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Turkey has 13 listed UNESCO World Heritage sites.