Turkey’s Growing Tourism Industry Attracts Global Hotel Investment
By James Ruggia
September 20, 2012 10:25 PM
It wasn’t too long ago that the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) cited Turkey as the seventh most-visited country in the world. Now it’s number six. “Turkey has always enjoyed its unique position by physically and figuratively bridging the East and West,” said Ebru Ejder, director of the Turkish Culture and Tourist Office in New York. “Increased political stability and economic growth in the past decade, however, has had a profound effect on the influx of optimism and investment throughout the country and the international community.
“Turkey is the sixth most-visited country and the 18th largest economy in the world. But perhaps most importantly, half the population is under the age of 29 years old, and more than 26 million are young, well-educated and motivated professionals, meaning there is a great deal of potential for even more growth in what promises to be an extremely bright future for the country,” Ejder said.
Despite lingering global economic uncertainties, some 28.6 million foreign visitors visited Turkey in 2010, representing an increase of 5.7 percent over 2009. The past year has seen an increase in U.S. visitors of about 13.5 percent and increased investment by some of the largest international hotel and resort brands. Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Wyndham, Shangri-La and Marti, among others, are opening new properties in 2012 and plan more investments to keep pace with the annual influx of tourists. Other brands with the intention to invest include Nikki Beach Hotels, MGM, Emaar, Bvlgari, Armani, Jumeriah, Mandarin, Rezidor, and Soho House. Istanbul alone will be home to 100 new hotels, about 40 of them five-star properties, over the next two years, taking the city’s bed capacity to 100,000.
Hilton Worldwide, which has been in Turkey longer than any other international brand, will open 13 new hotels in Turkey in addition to the eight they opened in the past year, increasing the number of Hilton-branded properties in the country to 33 by the end of 2013. The Hilton Bursa Convention Centre and Spa and the Hampton by Hilton Bursa officially opened in May. With views of Uludag Mountain in Northwestern Turkey, both hotels feature design influenced by the historical heritage of Bursa. Before the end of 2012, Hilton will also open Hampton by Hilton properties in Corlu, Rize, Istanbul and Gaziantep, with Hampton Garden Inn opening in Istanbul and Diyarbakir.
Starwood now operates seven hotels throughout Turkey, including the newly opened Le Meridien Istanbul Etiler. Designed by architect Emre Arolat to reflect Istanbul’s culturally diverse energy, the hotel features views over the Bosphorus. Starwood is set to open three new hotels in the coming years, the Sheraton Adana Hotel, the Sheraton Bursa Hotel and the Aloft Bursa.
The newest address in Turkey was unveiled in August with the opening of Marriott International’s Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel, the company’s ninth hotel in the country. The 20-story hotel on the European side of Istanbul has views of the city from a rooftop bar and is just minutes from the Bosphorus’ main boat harbor and the city’s cultural jewels, including the Saint Sophia Museum, Sultanahmet Mosque and the Topkapi.
Wyndham Hotel Group will enter its brand into Turkey for the first time when it opens two five-star hotels in late 2012, The Wyndham Petek Istanbul and The Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina. The Petek Istanbul is part of a larger development in the area that will feature 11,000 square-meters of retail space for upscale shopping and dining. The Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina, directly opposite the exclusive Kalamis Marina on the Asian side of Istanbul, will feature views of the Marmara Sea and offer a large spa and fitness center with 12 treatment rooms and indoor and rooftop pools. The Wyndham Hotel Group already operates seven hotels in the country under its Ramada brand, which will open its latest property, The Ramada Plaza Tekstilkent Istanbul Hotel, in November 2012.
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’ first Turkish property, Shangri-La Bosphorus, will open on the European side of Istanbul in early 2013, bringing with it the hotel’s signature spa brand, CHI, to the city for the first time.
There are many reasons for the interest that hotels are showing in Turkey. The Turkish economy has tripled its GDP, reaching $772 billion in 2011, up from $231 billion in 2002, according to TurkStat. For the past nine years, Turkey has achieved an average annual real GDP growth of 5.2 percent. Turkey is the 18th-largest economy in the world and seventh-largest economy compared with the EU in 2011. Turkish business raked in $135 billion in exports, an increase of 275 percent between 2002 and 2011. As Fareed Zakaria noted on CNN last February, “Turkey has a trillion-dollar economy that grew 6.6 percent last year (2011). Since April 2009, Turkey has created 3.4 million jobs -- that's more than the entire European Union, Russia and South Africa put together.”