As the oft cited gateway between East and West, Turkey has been a county of great significance travellers for centuries. Millions visit each year, with Turkey drawing from innumerable overseas markets to become one of the fastest growing destinations in the world.
The country is seen as a modern nation with a captivating blend of antiquity and contemporary.
While Istanbul relinquished its status as European Capital of Culture – which it held in 2010 – it remains one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the MENA region, not least because of its relative affordability to European visitors.
Countless excuses are on offer for a visit. Turkey was the site of the first human settlement; the seat of the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman Empires; the birthplace of Homer and the last home of the Virgin Mary, just to name a few.
The stable, secular democracy operating in the country also casts Turkey into stark relief when compared to its neighbours in early 2011, while a brief spat with Israel in 2010 also did little to dull visitor interest.
Today Turkey, with its spectacular coastline, majestic mountains, cosmopolitan cities and quaint villages is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations.
Here we examine recent developments in Turkey, and assess what the future holds.
Accommodation in Turkey
Visitors to Turkey are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation.
Hotel Les Ottomans, for example, is considered the “World’s Leading All Suite Hotel & Spa by the World Travel Awards”.
The mansion was converted to one of the most luxurious and exclusive hotels in Turkey by the refined taste of its proprietress, remaining faithful to its original design on the outside.
It was restructured inside as a journey from its origins in the past to the present and presented as a mixture of love and lavish beauty which mankind constantly seek for. A real treat for visitors to Istanbul.
Marden Palace is considered by many to be the finest hotel in Turkey
Over on the coast of Antalya, Mardan Palace opened in 2009 and has already staked its claim to be the best hotel in the county.
Some 546 rooms - including two Royal Suites with private pools – are situated amid architecture created by internationally acclaimed designers to reflect the distinctive landmarks of Istanbul. The main Hotel resembles the Dolmabahce Palace, while the bridges across the main pool are based on original designs of the Da Vinci Bridge.
The “World’s Leading Design Hotel” – the Adam & Eve Hotel – is also situated in Belek, Antalya, providing a luxurious getaway for discerning travellers.
For the all inclusive traveller, Rixos Hotels maintains a series of top qualities across the country, with the Rixos Premium Belek picking up the title of Mediterranean’s Leading Hotel at the World Travel Awards last year.
Outside of its world class hotels, Turkey also maintains another key advantage over regional rivals - national flag-carrier Turkish Airlines.
Recognised by tourism insiders as one of the strongest airlines in the world, the carrier has launched new flights to Accra, Bologna, Dar es Salaam, Sochi - home of the 2014 Winter Olympics – and Washington in the last year alone, building on its already extensive route network.
A new codeshare agreement with US Airways will also boost the carrier in 2011, while sponsorship deals with Premier League football club Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona – the first of its kind - will raise its international profile.
Presently flying to over 130 international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as well as 41 domestic destinations, Turkish Airlines offers one of the most comprehensive networks of any major international carrier.
Hagia Sofia is one of the most visited sights in Istanbul
In a wider sense, however, challenges remain for Turkey as an international tourist destination.
While the European Union may offer baubles – such as the title of European Capital of Culture for Istanbul in 2010 – it has been markedly more reticent in offering Turkey access to the greatest prize of all – membership.
Although negotiations have been ongoing for a decade or more – indeed Turkey was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1959 and has since moved closer through the Ankara Agreement – disagreements over the future of Cyprus, the history of Armenia, political transparency, and the environment have all delayed accession.
However, the potential benefits for the tourism industry in the country are huge.
European visitors represent the biggest sector for Turkey, and their activities offer huge potential to support economic growth and employment in what is still a relatively developing country. There is also the advantage of stronger social ties between the EU and neighbouring Turkey, with ascension offering a very real opportunity to build a social, cultural and economic bridge between the Christian West and Muslim East.
Despite this, the process is likely to be long and arduous.
While there is a gathering consensus in favour of Turkey’s eventual membership of the European Union – with France and Germany notably bucking the trend - European Commission president José Manuel Barroso has stated the accession process could take at least until 2021 – at the earliest.
With the country going from strength to strength, City.Mobi has recently launched Istanbul.Mobi. This definitive guide provides visitors will all they need to know about this incredible destination, from entertainment info to booking hotels and airport transfers.
City.Mobi offers the most comprehensive mobile travel guides available, with over 800 cities in 200 countries listed. Each is developed by the City.Mobi team to combine into a single global travel directory.
Key features include information on accommodation, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and transport. City.Mobi guides include user reviews and traveller utilities such as a translation guide, currency converter, news and local weather guide.
World Travel Awards
Whatever the outcome of the ongoing negotiations with Brussels, Turkey is already fêted among members of the travel and tourism community, having being selected as host of the World Travel Awards (WTA) European Gala Ceremony later this year.
Taking place on September 9th, the city of Antalya – the tourism capital of Turkey – will host the elite of the world’s travel industry, all of whom will be eager to discover who will walk away with the coveted prizes.