Having conquered the mass market, Turkey has set its sights on cornering the luxury sector too. Karl Cushing reports
From swanky new hotels to indulgent experiences, Turkey has added a phenomenal amount of luxury tourism product in the last five years.
With more exciting projects in the offing, the country’s top-end travel proposition – underpinned by an incredibly rich culture and history, a vast and varied topography, and a cuisine that is undergoing a gourmet revolution -– is on a roll.
Operators are already noting an upturn. Classic Collection’s head of purchasing Gary Boyer says summer sales for Turkey are 7% up on last year, which finished 16% up on 2011, while Cox & Kings reports “encouraging signs” for advance bookings, driven by a demand for twin centres.
“Turkey can be sold effortlessly as a luxury destination,” says Sabina Shaida, managing director of Mosaic Holidays, which is enjoying the increased demand for beyond-the-beach product, from regions such as Cappadocia to sights including Troy and Ephesus. Bookings for tailor-made tours are already up by 20% on last year for January and February.
Istanbul remains the doyenne of Turkey’s luxury city break scene. Alongside classic offerings from Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, and Conrad Hilton, earmarked for a major overhaul, sit gems such as Pera Palace, the freshly refurbished Grand Tarabya and bijou boutiques including the 20-room Tomtom Suites and 10-room Hotel les Ottomans, both members of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The opening of the W in 2008 spurred a design hotel trend resulting in options such as Edition, a 13-floor monolith backed by a high-end spa and a Cipriani restaurant; Sofa, in the chichi Nisantasi district; and the striking Le Méridien Istanbul Etiler, which opened last year. Fairmont’s Quasar will open in 2016 but next to impress will be Raffles Istanbul Zorlu Centre and Shangri-La Bosphorus, both opening shortly, backed by sumptuous spas and suites.
Turkey’s brand of beach boutique luxury is ably demonstrated in the resort of Alacati on the Cesme Peninsular. Featured by Anatolian Sky, it’s new for Mosaic Holidays, whose Turkey 2013-14 brochure features five local properties. A Four Seasons is set to open in 2016 but for now the focus is on compact conversions of old stone buildings.
Established resorts such as Bodrum are also upping their game. Since Kempinski raised the bar by opening Barbaros Bay in 2006 the area has become home to everything from the boutique Divan Bodrum and Casa Dell’Arte to Aman’s first Turkey property. The sumptuous Amanruya, which opened in a nearby bay in 2011, is also new for Mosaic.
For 2013, Sovereign Luxury Travel has introduced the 96-room Grand Yazici and Hilton Bodrum Turkbuku Resort & Spa, already its top Aegean Coast seller for this summer. With a new Nikki Beach and a Mandarin Oriental opening next year, Bodrum’s luxury future is bright.
Antalya’s lively blend of high-end options range from the bling-tastic Mardan Palace and Adam and Eve, with its Eden Spa, to the ‘seven-star’ Rixos Premium.
Design hotels include Hillside Su, which is new for Prestige Holidays. Plus, Thomson has just opened its fifth Sensatori hotel in nearby Side and a new flagship Club Med is opening in late April in Belek.
Belek’s other options include the VIP service of Gloria Serenity Resort and Kempinski Hotel The Dome, in nearby Kadriye, featured by everyone from Prestige Holidays to Kuoni. As Classic’s Boyer notes, Belek also boasts 10 championship golf courses, with plans for another 10.
Over in Kas, the classy Peninsula Gardens, which opened in 2011, has been joined by Island Villas (open from May-October). These four new high-end properties, two with five bedrooms, all boast private waterfronts and hotel services from nearby boutique property Deniz Feneri Lighthouse. They are new for Exclusive Escapes, along with Badem Tatil Ev, a 12-bedroom boutique opening in May in Selimye, a smaller, sleepier version of Kalkan.
Anatolian Sky’s popular options include the adults-only Likya Residence Hotel & Spa in Kalkan, and Olympic Holidays’ Gold & Platinum Collection includes the five-star Ece Saray Marina & Resort in Fethiye.
On the Datca Peninsular choose the D-Hotel Maris, which opened last April. If clients tire of the Espa spa they can always charter the resort’s luxury seaplane or yacht.
Turkey’s classical highlights can be toured in high style. Most itineraries feature two or three nights in Istanbul, such as Journeys of Distinction’s Classical Turkey (11 nights from £2,755) and Bales Worldwide’s 13-night Classical Turkey (from £2,545).
By far the classiest way to arrive in Istanbul is on a luxury train. Orient-Express’ annual, five-night Paris-Budapest-Bucharest-Istanbul service departs on August 30, while Cox & Kings offers an 11-night private Vienna to Istanbul journey on the Danube Express. The operator features everything from a comprehensive 21-night Grand Tour (from £3,575, private from £8,895) to a brace of historic arty tours. Some, such as its six-night private Istanbul and Cappadocia tour, are offered at different price points: superior from £1,030 and luxury from £1,685.
Other tours featuring Cappadocia’s renowned otherworldy landscape include Peter Sommer’s five-night Exploring Cappadocia, which uses the Kale Konak cave hotel in Uçhisar as its base (from £1,395, in September). The operator has also added a shorter 10-night tour following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, travelling from Istanbul to Bodrum via sites such as Ephesus (from £2,650).
Classic Collection has added two new options. Its seven-night Istanbul to Ephesus tour, from £1,295 including flights, takes in sites such as Troy and Pergamon, while Istanbul to Cappadocia costs from £1,835 including flights.
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