‘Bodrum’s transformation to get support from Russians’
Engin Esen - BODRUM
Once the champion of sun, sea and sand holiday concept in Turkey and the most favorite resort of British tourists, Bodrum has now entered a new path to diversify tourism activities and attract visitors from the crème de la crème of the globe, according to the town’s mayor and tourism professionals.The efforts to bolster up Bodrum’s tourism hotspot status with new works in areas of archeology, gastronomy, arts and sports will be boosted by a multimillion-dollar investment by Russians, Bodrum Mayor Ahmet Aras told Hürriyet Daily News.
“We have attached high importance to social, sports, culture and health investments in recent years,” he said.
After a couple of decades in which Bodrum saw a mass tourism development based on beach and nightlife facilities, the resort town now is shifting “to basics” with cultural activities and organic farming, according to the mayor’s remarks.
“We define Bodrum as the address of happiness for 3,500 years. You can find entertainment activities round the clock here,” he added, pointing to the town’s high popularity in the United Kingdom and other European countries as an accredited green destination with turquoise coves.
He also said that the number of new archeological excavations to unearth ancient Carian sites, as well as arts festivals and sports events were rising in Bodrum despite the coronavirus pandemic. The restoration of the Bodrum Castle, founded by the Knights of St. John in the 15th century, will be completed until mid-May, he said.
Following a visit of a delegation led by Ahmet Palankoyev, the head of the Russia-Turkey Business Council, last year, a construction project for a sports and congress center has started, Aras said.
“It will be a multifunctional facility with a congress and sports center, show and fair venues. Athletes will camp here. Youngsters will learn how to play ice hockey and to ice skate,” he added.
The Bodrum Promotion Foundation (BOTAV), an umbrella organization of tourism associations, trade chambers and the local municipality, is in partnership with Russian investors for the project.
“It is hard to estimate the total amount of the investment because it will expand by the time of progress. It is a big investment worth well over $30 million,” BOTAV Secretary-General Serkan Ceylan told Hürriyet Daily News.
Russian investments in the resort town are not limited to the construction project, Ceylan said. Many ultrarich Russians make tourism facility investments and buy multimillion-dollar properties on the peninsula, he added.
Tourism figures also reflect the increase in interest from Russians and Ukrainians.
The number of British tourists arriving in Bodrum decreased from 210,817 in 2019 to 56,174 last year, while the number of Russian tourists visiting the resort town dropped from 127,085 to 67,203.
Despite the pandemic, 66,637 Ukrainian tourists traveled to Bodrum last year, down slightly from 78,876 in 2019.
Some 16,000 Polish and 8,000 German holidaymakers also arrived in Bodrum in 2020.
The resort town is expected to attract at least twice more tourists from Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said Yüksel Aslan, a regional representative of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB).
“The number of planned charter flights has increased by 40 percent versus last year. Flag carriers of nearly 40 countries also fly to the Milas-Bodrum Airport,” he said.
“In other destinations, sun, sea and sand tourism is available only if the hotels are open. In Bodrum, we host people who have chosen to experience a lifestyle here. We have an ancient theater in the city center. The Aegean gastronomy world is full of flavors. We have hiking and cycling routes. We have blue voyages. Tourism in Bodrum is much more diversified than all-inclusive hotel schemes,” he said.
Bodrum is offering an alternative to those people who could not go to Ibiza, St. Tropez, Cannes, or Monaco, “with better service for cheaper prices,” Aslan said.
The resort town will celebrate the new tourism season with a Davos-style tourism congress in which officials from the United NationsbWorld Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism ministers and CEOs of hotel chains will be a part.