With two of the leading hotels in Istanbul under management. Sura Hotels & Tourism Group is working to redefine the luxury hospitality in Turkey.
Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole sits down with group chairman Hüseyin Kaygısız to discuss his plans for expansion, the ever changing luxury market in Istanbul and what it takes to ensure his hotels exceed guests’ expectations every time.
Breaking Travel News: Good afternoon Hüseyin and thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Perhaps you could begin with a brief overview of Sura Hotels & Tourism Group? What is it you offer travellers to Turkey?
Hüseyin Kaygısız: First of all, I would like to thank you for giving the opportunity. This is great pleasure to take place in Breaking Travel News.
Sura Hotels & Tourism Group is a fast growing group of hotels which is located in Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historical peninsula.
We already have two hotels; Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel & Spa, which is the only five star hotel in Sultanahmet, and Sura Design Hotel & Suites which is a dreamy design and boutique inn.
Four years ago, we began our way with Sura Design Hotel & Suites and we knew that it wasn’t going to remain as the only hotel of the group.
Then, just a year ago, we launched Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel & Spa which we achieved a first thing in the area.
The area I am talking about is one of the precious parts of the land.
The stories which lay behind the soil here is unimaginably hidden with treasures of the history.
You feel the air when you randomly walk in the streets.
You can understand we are a little in love with our city and the natural result of it is that we put great investment to this precious piece of land.
Finally I can tell we offer the history to our guest; but not only, because we give the pleasure of modernity at the same time which is very rare in the area.
Furthermore, we blend the modernity with our past, the Ottoman culture and that makes Sura unique.
BTN: Turkey is obviously one of the most competitive hospitality markets in Europe. What separates the properties offered by Sura Hotels from your competitors in the destination?
Hüseyin Kaygısız: Well, the moment you take your step into our hotels, you see only smiling faces at the reception.
Then, you take your time to see more and come across the happy waiters, guest relations. And in the morning, at your floor, you will be greeted by warm smiles of our housekeepers.
You can even take a visit to our kitchen, it won’t change.
We smile at our workers, they smile back to our guests.
For us, the key is to smile.
Only then the other facts can come up the way.
So you can see the first separator fact is our staff.
Then, as I mentioned in the first question’s answer, our style is very unique. (Not to seem vain, but…)
We worked hard for it.
We aimed to be not only highly modern but classic at the same time.
And the classicism we are talking about here, is coming from Ottoman culture.
So the result is very enjoyable; I recommend to you to be our guest and experience what I am telling.
You can easily see how our staff and style differ Sura Hotels from other places.
All we wish is to keep our line there and even to take it higher.
BTN: Turkey has undergone a period of tremendous economic growth in the past decade. Has this aided the development of the tourism industry in the country? In what ways could the national government do more to assist its development?
Hüseyin Kaygısız: Our country is strong. Stronger in also tourism now.
The government did one best thing: the transportation development.
Before, you could only see the tourist in the touristic areas and that was all. Taksim, Sultanahmet, Eminönü and may be Ortaköy.
Now it is not the case.
The metro system which is connected to each other now at highly important points, made it easier for everybody.
And this system will get even larger.
But I should say the tourism in south and in Istanbul are very different than each other.
South is very crowded in manner of tourists and the hotels are much larger.
The hotels can’t easily run the smoothest operation all the time.
Maybe more control and tourism education for the area’s young people might help.
Here we are in the heart of the cultural tourism, so usually the aim of the guest is obvious.
That is a great advantage to know and be prepared to the exam.
We know how we should make the guest feel and what they expect.
But Sura may take its name also to the south one day and demonstrate its difference also there.
Who knows, because we would really like the idea to contribute to the tourism in south, and also modernising it.
BTN: Who are you welcoming the properties you operate in Turkey? Do you see a lot of European guests, or are you more focused on the Middle Eastern market for example? Are you principally a leisure destination, or do you cater to the MICE market?
Hüseyin Kaygısız: We are looking through Europe and US market.
Australia and Canada also on the target.
Middle Eastern guests are always in the guest list because Turkey is a great place to visit for them they come here mostly for shopping; of course not all of them.
But rest, especially Europeans, usually arrives with a plan to witness the history.
We can also put the Far Eastern guests to the history lovers list.
Our both hotels have meeting rooms and also outdoor areas.
So also corporate companies like Sura Hotels.
Because our operations are smooth.
So, the companies which leaves satisfied and happy from our service, prefers Sura next year the same time.
That is a great happiness for us.
This is the fruit of our work. So, I can tell you that Sura is for both leisure and MICE.
BTN: Do you have any expansion plans, perhaps adding new properties or developing existing locations, you can share with us here at Breaking Travel News?
Hüseyin Kaygısız: Yes, this is actually very exciting for us.
We have two upcoming projects which are already started off.
Again, in the heart of the Historical Peninsula, we are constructing two more special hotels.
One of them is Sura Museum Hotel with 80 rooms and Sura Grand Bazaar Hotel with 250 rooms.
They are both placed in the special points, just like we did in the previous projects.
Both buildings I explored their names have magnificent historical stories.
And again, we will put the modernity in the same room with the traditional style and taste of Sura will appear also in those ones.
We don’t want to remain only as an Istanbul chain, we also wish to touch to out of the frontiers with our tourism approach.
We keep the location as a surprise for now but one day you will be hearing it.
New projects are always exciting for us.
We really would like to invest in tourism, but only with high quality. Income is not the priority here.
We wish the guest leave our hotels happily and then when they go to their countries, to be recommended.
That means the guest had what s/he expected or more and that’s all we try doing. We dream to be brand of qualified accommodation address.
I hope I am clear on what I am trying to express.
BTN Sura properties have been nominated at the World Travel Awards, with both Sura Design Hotel and Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel & Spa in the running for the titles of Europe’s Leading Lifestyle Hotel and Europe’s Leading Luxury Hotel. How does it feel to have been recognised in this way?
Hüseyin Kaygısız: Those are exactly right categories to run in but we know our competitors are strong.
What we will do is to keep up the good work as we have been trying until today.
I always think that good work gets what is deserved.
Even a little labour, if it’s well done and done with love and will, then it finds the true buyer with the right price.
The price may be money or something else, like being appreciated, being hailed or being a world brand in tourism if we are talking about our case.
It is not always the money, there is no better joy than making people happy more than they expected.
Sura family, is on their way to do this.
Because the guests can easily understand what you are working for.
If you put too high prices and give a standard service, one day you can see any hotel can do this easily.
This is not the achievement.
And it is not fruitful if you want to have a good reputation.
So, as the last thing, I can say that I know there are strong competitors but I see also Sura Hotels as strong nominees in World Travel Awards.