The collapse of Turkey specialist Holidays 4U at the peak of the high season, mirroring Goldtrail Travel’s collapse in July last year, is sad news but unsurprising.
Holidays 4U had launched a programme largely based on mass-market product and all-inclusive hotels centred in and around Marmaris.
This meant the operator was competing with the big two, as well as with the many others that pursue a similar strategy to its own, predominantly on price.
This is nearly impossible to do and financially destructive in a price-conscious market, especially when one considers the economies of scale both Tui and Thomas Cook enjoy.
We must now look at moving beyond the country’s beaches and mass-market appeal. I can understand why Turkey’s beaches take such prominence in marketing strategies – they are wonderful – but it is wrong to be so limited.
Once you focus on the main beaches, you invariably get operators competing to offer the cheapest possible deals instead of trying to add value and show more of the destination’s product range.
And once you get caught in this downward spiral, it is nearly impossible to break out.
Consumers view Turkey as a cheap place for beach breaks and it could take a generation of marketing to start changing people’s perceptions and attitudes.
Turkey has wonderful history, unique culture and exceptional ruins, including those from the Hittite, Greek, Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires. It also offers great food and fantastic landscapes. As Turks we are rightfully proud of all of this but how often do we market it in the UK?
If the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office focuses more on these aspects of the country then we can target more upmarket customers with bigger budgets to spend.
We may see the number of visitors drop, but if this results in higher profitability then that is not a bad thing. It would be better for the country, better for its people and better for the operators who wish to set up programmes there.
Let’s become known for the quality of our product, not the fact that every summer a large tour operator offering our country collapses.
To achieve this, the Turkish government in Ankara must review its strategy and the financial support it offers the larger operators over the smaller ones.
Much of the high-end product is sold through small niche tour operators and it is they who can help redefine Turkey’s marketing strategy.
Mass-market product sells itself on price alone and while we do need it, we urge the government to support cultural, historical and inland Turkey as well as those beach resorts that fall outside the range of Marmaris and Icmeler.
Akin Koc is managing director of Anatolian Sky
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