ISTANBUL – Regional hospitality and tourism experts gathered recently to discuss Turkey’s dynamic tourism sector ahead of this month’s CATHIC (The Turkey & Neighbours Hotel Investment Conference) set to be held at Istanbul’s Marmara Taksim from May 29-30, 2013.
CATHIC speakers Serra Arikok, Investments Coordinator of Demsa Group Tourism, Elif Balci Fisunoglu, General Manager of Istanbul Convention & Visitors Bureau – ICVB and Omer Isvan, Chairman of Servotel Corporation joined in the round table discussion chaired by BDO Hospitality Consulting Managing Partner Mehmet Onkal to discuss Turkey’s potential, opportunities and challenges.
Spearheading the conversation, Serra Arikok explained across-the-board infrastructure investment will be needed in Turkey to realise the potential of its tourism sector developments. She said “In areas and regions where hotel investment is possible, the number of art, entertainment and shopping facilities that serve as tourist attractions must see growth parallel to the number of hotels.
“Looking at the regional master plan, it is also important to have hotels representing each category in accordance with the region’s characteristics. This will direct and guide potential investors to the right investment project. Furthermore, regulations related to historic buildings need to be reviewed, the bureaucracy lowered and increased incentives in certain regions that require hotels."
Advisory Board required for tourism
Arikok added that hotel supply must be developed in a controlled manner to avoid bad investments. "An advisory board and consultancy is essential for this reason. We must increase foreign language classes in schools, provide human resources to the sector and give simple language education to the people that tourists are in touch with – like taxi drivers – to support the more qualified professionals in the sector.
“Turkey is one of the most fortunate countries in the world in terms of historical and natural beauties, it is also now becoming a centre of entertainment and business where cultural activities are flourishing and it is becoming a city that is repeatedly visited like Paris, London and New York.”
Arikok strongly believes that tourists who have visited historic Istanbul will be attracted to visit again, and emphasised that to achieve this, other art festivals, modern and classic museums, world class exhibitions and entertainment facilities must continue to increase.
Economic stability causes the tourist number to increase
Arikok observed that strong relations with Middle Eastern and Caucasian countries help drive tourism to Turkey: “The stability experienced by the Turkish economy has a positive impact on business opportunities with other countries and the number of tourists.
“As the number of exhibitions and conferences continue to increase, investors too look to increase their investments in Turkey, aware of the rising value in tourism sector. Until we reach the supply of cities like Paris, London, Barcelona and New York, which are much ahead of us numerically, investments in this sector will continue to be attractive."
Meanwhile, Servotel Corporation Chairman Omer Isvan highlighted some of the challenges faced in the tourism sector. “Challenges include the intricate zoning and building permit procedures, which require substantial patience and perseverance. The process may hinder some of the creativity and leadership elements that we would normally wish to incorporate into development.” He added: “In hot destinations like Istanbul, land costs are challenging for a stand-alone, ground up hotel development.”
Istanbul is a shortlisted destination to host International events
Elif Balci Fisunoglu highlighted that over the last 10 years Istanbul has hosted large international scale events and congresses and this looks to grow and continue. “Istanbul is nearly in every shortlist to play host to a variety of major upcoming international events. In fact, we believe that Istanbul is a very strong candidate for the 2020 Olympic Games and that this city has the necessary experience and charm for this important event.”
Annual foreign tourists reached 9.3 million
While Istanbul looks to grow with developments and investments in economic, academic, cultural and social life, Fisunoglu further emphasised Istanbul’s potential of a modern city mixed with history, which makes Istanbul attractive to investors.
“Istanbul has extraordinary congress and exhibition centres and nearly 80,000 guest rooms and 94 5-star and luxury hotels. Moreover it is an easily accessible destination from anywhere in the globe. The city itself enjoys an eclectic composition of different cultures and traditions and can be identified as an open air museum with its palaces, mosques, churches and historic monuments.
Fisunoglu observed that the number of international visitors to Turkey has risen annually since 2003, “The numbers of foreign tourists to Istanbul have increased to reach 9.3 million last year, compared to 3 million in 2003. This has helped Istanbul to become one of the most visited cities in the world and this increase has foundations like accessibility, historic charm, modern infrastructure and facilities, young and dynamic population, economic state and political stability,” she added.
CATHIC is co-organised by Bench Events and Questex Media, which also manages the Russia and CIS Hotel Investment Conference, Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, International Hotel Investment Forum Asia Pacific and International Hotel Investment Forum Berlin.
CATHIC speakers gathered to discuss Turkey’s dynamic tourism sector ahead of this month’s CATHIC set to be held at Istanbul’s Marmara Taksim from May 29-30, 2013. Pictured from left Servotel Corporation Chairman, Omer Isvan; Demsa Group Tourism Investments Coordinator, Serra Arikok; BDO Hospitality Consulting Managing Partner, Mehmet Onkal and Istanbul Convention & Visitors Bureau General Manager, Elif Balci Fisunoglu.