Turkey attracts bargain hunters

Grand Hyatt Istanbul (Grand Hyatt Istanbul)

Travel company Thomas Cook is nearly back to its 2015 levels for Turkey, as the country saw a resurgence, due in part to rising costs in Spain. 

The comments came as the Turkish Statistical Institute reported a 37-percent increase in tourism revenue in the third quarter, with visitors set to rise as Russia eases visa restrictions.  

Katrina Latimer, trade partnership manager, Thomas Cook, said that the country “actually became our No. One selling destination in the latest period. And that’s what it’s going to look like moving forward into summer 2018 as well.”  

Latimer’s comments echoed those from Peter Fankhauser, the group’s CEO, who said that demand for Turkey had picked up in the third quarter “as customers look for quality and value.” 

That demand translated into a 37.6-percent increase in tourism income, reaching $11.4 billion, 77 percent of which came from overseas visitors. Total visitor numbers rose by 38.1 percent to 16.6 million, with individual travel dominating, as package tours accounted for $2.5 billion.  

The proportion of those visitors staying in hotels increased 10.6 percent on the year to 36.5 percent, while those using rental homes also grew from 3.1 percent in the third quarter last year to 11.7 percent.  

Who's Building 

The global operators were eager to make the most of the uplift, with Marriott International announcing plans to open 11 hotels over the next six years, six of them in Istanbul, adding to the company’s portfolio of 26 hotels under 13 brands in the country.  

“Our Four Points by Sheraton brand is also growing tremendously in Turkey," Marriott International Europe VP John Licence told the local press. "The value of the brand in Turkey will double with Four Points Izmir and three other Four Points hotels we plan to open over the next three years.” 

Hyatt Hotels Corporation also announced the entry of the Hyatt House brand into the Turkish market with the opening of Hyatt House Gebze, the fifth Hyatt House branded hotel to open outside the U.S. in 2017. 

Located 10 miles from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport and less than 40 miles from Istanbul, the hotel joins four Hyatt-branded hotels currently open in Turkey: the Grand Hyatt Istanbul, Hyatt Centric Levent Istanbul, Hyatt Regency Istanbul Ataköy and Park Hyatt Istanbul - Macka Palas. 

Political Climate

While U.S.-based hotel companies may be eagerly entering the country, a spat between the U.S. and Turkey is making it harder for US citizens to do so, after the pair suspended processing visas between the two countries. The row came after the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul over alleged links to the movement of Fethullah Gülen, who is rumored to be behind last year’s attempted coup. 

Filling the gaps, Russia's Federal Agency for Tourism has said that it would ease visa procedures to aid travel between the two countries after a suspension in visa-free travel following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in Turkish airspace in 2015.  

Oleg Safonov, head of the agency, said after a meeting in Turkey last month that the two countries would work together to increase travel between the two, describing Turkey as one of Russian tourists’ favour destinations because of its quality, but also value for money. 

With politics first taking visitors from the country after the failed coup, politics could now deliver their return. What is clear from those already filling the books at Thomas Cook is that price is a deciding factor. With neither Marriott International nor Hyatt leaning on their top-tier brands, value seems to be the watchword for Turkey going ahead if it is to continue to attract guests from Spain.  

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.