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Breaking Travel News investigates: Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum

Breaking Travel News investigates: Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum

“If you need to book the helicopter pad, just let me know,” Burak, our private butler, informs me on arrival.

Now, I know travel writing is a notoriously lucrative career, but not even Breaking Travel News can afford a helicopter.

But as an illustration of the market Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum operates in, it could not have been better.

During our stay earlier this month, yachts, none less than 30-metres long, were jostling for position in the marina outside Assaggio, the Italian restaurant that floats elegantly on the Aegean Sea at the edge of the resort.

The global elite drop in for dinner before hopping back onboard their waiting tenders to be whisked to their ships – it is quite a sight and quite unlike anything I have witnessed before.

But, then, Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum itself is not your usual hotel – it is a place for the superyacht set.

In literary visions of utopia, when humanity has overcome fuel shortages, religious strife and war, the protagonists usually build something that looks uncannily like this.

Manicured lawns stretch as far as the eye can see, dotted by gurgling, reflecting pools, gleaming glass facades shimmer in the unbroken sunlight and the sound of cicadas drifts from the 100,000 trees on the property.

This is a modern approximation of paradise, hermetically sealed off from the outside world.

It is an international space, outside of Turkey, or indeed any national identity, dedicated solely to the pursuit of excellence in hospitality.

Conceived by acclaimed designer Antonio Citterio, the resort offers 130 rooms, suites, apartments and villas – down by two after some wealthy guests made the resort an offer they could not refuse.

Each offers outstanding vistas to inspire a feeling of being at one with nature.

Built into the side of a steep hill, no two floors of the hotel are visible at the same time, as it seems to cascade naturally down the embankment – it is simultaneously architecturally stunning and almost invisible.

General manager Harun Dursun explains: “Owner Vedat Asci, from Astaş Holding, is passionate about what we do here, he is a walking encyclopaedia for the natural environment you see around here at the resort.

“What we do here is very sustainable – we have six sustainable projects, whatever we use from nature we return.”

These include a multi-level programme to limit consumption of water, electricity, and gas, while recycling is also high on the agenda.

A green kitchen programme, using local, seasonal, natural and (where possible) organic products is also in operation, while grey water is used for the irrigation of forested areas and seawater is desalinated into fresh drinking water.

During our stay we were accommodated in a junior suite, complete with a private pool and stunning views over the Aegean in the distance.

The space was enormous, featuring a large working desk, seating and sleeping areas, as well as a separate bathroom, complete with freestanding bath, shower and dual sinks.

The interior design successfully melds Mandarin Oriental’s heritage with traditional local Turkish aesthetics, featuring king beds swathed in luxurious linens, beautiful rugs and handy valet closets.

This is the sort of place minor aristocrats find aspirational.

Nice touches also included a thoughtful bookmark left in an open paperback and some impromptu aromatherapy oil left by the side of the bath after use.

These bespoke flourishes create a genuine feeling of care at the property.

Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is an unusual resort-type property for the brand, which is more usually associated with city-centre hotels.

But, while something so elite and detached from its surroundings might risk becoming sterile, the hotel is alive, with people in the gym, restaurants, and pools.

It is a place to be enjoyed, not just admired.

Each of the eateries – be they the Italian, Japanese or Turkish - employs locals from each country, creating a feeling of authenticity.

The restaurants are also open to guests from outside the hotel and are considered some of the best in the region.

Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is a seasonal property, open from April to October, with the winter months employed to develop the product for the following year.

Around 100 members of staff remain at the hotel through the winter, down from around 600 during the peak summer months.

The others move around in an Erasmus-style exchange programme, learning best practice from other Mandarin properties around the world.

It seems this hard work pays off – with the rewards being reaped during my visit.

Of course, no stay at Mandarin Oriental would be complete without a visit to the spa.

The facility in Bodrum offers the most comprehensive range of wellness, beauty and massage programmes in the region, including the awarding-winning holistic signature spa treatments.

Benefitting from its secluded location on a hillside ridge overlooking a verdant green valley and the azure Aegean Sea, the spacious 2,700 sqm spa is spread over three floors.

Staff uses olive oil, sage and lavender from the resort’s gardens as ingredients in their own natural, handmade remedies, while centuries-old Turkish water therapies can be experienced in the stunningly designed hammams.

During my stay I was treated to a traditional hammam and to say it was a unique experience would be to undersell it.

After an hour of being drenched in water, soaked in bubbles, massaged and covered in mud, I emerged for a brief dip in the seawater Jacuzzi feeling like a new man – a must try!

With so much on offer it is no surprise general manager Dursun was in expansive mood during my visit.

He explains: “The Americans are back in Turkey, the British and the rest of western Europe – this is a positive time for us.

“The core of our business is 95 per cent leisure; but we are also trying to target MICE groups, retreats for business groups, car launches, and we are having success here.

“The fall in the value of the lira is no problem – at this level – our guests earn euros and spend euros, even our domestic Turkish guests spend euros – we have seen no effect from this.”

The hotel touches 100 per cent occupancy, during Ramadan for example, but usually hovers around 70-80 per cent.

There are so many people who can afford this kind of experience.

Dursun adds: “We took the title Europe’s Leading Hotel Residences at the World Travel Awards this year, which we are extremely pleased with, they are great recognition for us.”

Lauded as the Land of the Eternal Blue by Homer, the Bodrum Peninsula is also enjoying something of a boom, having become one of the Mediterranean’s most exclusive leisure destinations.

It has grown in recent years, away from its mass tourism roots, to offer a more sophisticated product.

British travellers have been joined by those from Russia, the CIS, Gulf and United States, while Turkish guests also make up a sizable part of the market.

In addition to its rich cultural heritage and temperate climate, this area of Turkey offers visitors a stunning combination of pine-covered mountains, private beaches and charming coastal villages adorned with bougainvillea.

Located on the northern side of the peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is close to the charming waterfront village of Golturkbuku, which has picturesque narrow streets, waterside restaurants and peaceful bay, and is a popular stopover destination for super yachts.

The hotel is a 45-minute drive from Bodrum International Airport.

However, this is largely inconsequential to guests, most of whom arrive by private helicopter or yacht.

For those looking further afield, Astaş Holding, the owner of Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, is also currently working on a new property for the brand in Istanbul, so there is plenty more to look forward to from this partnership.

It is scheduled to open in 2020.

“We will see to what extent the team here from Bodrum will be involved, with our skills and experience here,” concludes Dursun.

More Information

With sweeping panoramic views over the blue Aegean Sea, Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum offers the ultimate in luxurious Mediterranean style on the Turkish Riviera.

Overlooking the aptly named Paradise Bay (Cennet Koyu), the 60-hectare resort on the Bodrum peninsula nestles within landscaped hillside gardens surrounded by ancient olive groves and pine trees.

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole