Turkey latest destination for UAE hoteliers

Turkey is becoming a haven for hotel operators, with Rotana Hotels and Viceroy Hotel Group this week both revealing projects for the country.

Megacity Istanbul: Rotana Hotels and Viceroy Hotel Group both revealed projects for Turkey as operators seek to tap potential in the market. Kerem Uzel / Bloomberg News
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Turkey is becoming a haven for hotel operators, with Rotana Hotels and Viceroy Hotel Group this week both revealing projects for the country.

Rotana has just signed an agreement to manage a new resort in Iskenderun, in the south of the country.

"This is going to be our first hotel in Turkey, but we are in serious negotiations with three or four different developers in different parts of Turkey, one of which is Istanbul," said Selim El Zyr, the president and chief executive of Rotana Hotels, which is based in Abu Dhabi.

The resort, on which design work has started, is expected to open in about three years. The property is being built by a Turkish developer.

"We have worked hard to get into Turkey. It's a big market and a very cosmopolitan market. For us it's going out of the Middle East and Africa region," said Mr El Zyr, who declined to say how much the development would cost.

Viceroy, which is 50 per cent owned by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, yesterday announced plans to open a five-star hotel in Istanbul towards the end of next year in a historic property. The hotel, which will have views of the Bosphorus, will consist of 10 buildings on 16 acres. "It's the opening of the market I feel. It's become more attractive," said Anton Bawab, the regional president of Viceroy Hotel Group. "I give a lot of credit to Turkish Airlines. The network has become phenomenally strong. The Arab Spring has had some impact.

"Traditionally, people who would seek beach destinations in Egypt, elsewhere in the region, are now going to Turkey," he added, declining to say how much the development would cost.

The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Turkey's economy was 55.1 billion Turkish lira (Dh114.97bn) or 4.3 per cent of its total GDP last year, according to figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council. This contribution is forecast to rise by 1.7 per cent this year, and to grow by 2.9 per cent a year over the next decade to 74.4bn lira in 2022.

Dubai's Jumeirah Group recently announced that it would operate the historic Pera Palace hotel in Istanbul, a property that accommodated tourists travelling on the Orient Express and that counted the authors Agatha Christie and Ernest Hemingway among its guests.

"Stability in the politics has carried Turkey to a certain point and the changes in the law have encouraged foreign investors to come to Turkey," said Serkan Gocmen, the chief executive of Nef Bebekoy, the developer of the Viceroy hotel in Istanbul.

"We believe that the market will boom. In exhibition times in Istanbul you still cannot find any rooms. I believe that there's demand."

Viceroy also has an agreement to manage a hotel that is under development in Bodrum in Turkey and scheduled to open in 2014.

Mr Bawab said that Viceroy was hoping to grow in the region, with Oman, Qatar and Lebanon among the countries on its radar.

"The countries that have had political instability, development has slowed down, so we're not spending a lot of time," he said.

Rotana said it was also close to reaching agreements in Mauritania and the Maldives. It has also signed up to operate a hotel in Sulaymaniyah in Iraq.

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