Kayseri mayor dreams of making Erciyes new Davos

Kayseri mayor dreams of making Erciyes new Davos

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Kayseri mayor dreams of making Erciyes new Davos

Kayseri Mayor Mehmet Özhaseki has embarked on a major strategy to change the face of Erciyes. The Erciyes Tourism Center is set to become the biggest and most sophisticated ski resort in Turkey. AA photos

When the management of the modest ski center on Erciyes Mountain in central Turkey was transferred to the city’s metropolitan municipality in 2005, the local mayor gave orders to launch a promotion campaign to attract more visitors.

Shortly after, a conversation he had with a foreigner showed him that he had to do more than a simple PR campaign.

“After doing some exercise, I entered the sauna of the hotel and came across a lady,” Kayseri Metropolitan Mayor Mehmet Özhaseki told a group of journalists last week. “As we started to talk, she told me she was the wife of a Dutch journalist who came to Kayseri to interview the mayor. She told me she had gone to the mountain but did not like it, so she came back to the hotel. I asked why? She said whatever came from the hand of God was beautiful, but whatever was man-made was ugly. She even complained that there were no toilets. I came out of the sauna and called my colleagues and said, ‘We’re stopping everything; right now, we don’t even have a product to market.’”

That is when the mayor embarked on a major strategy to change the face of Erciyes. A master plan was formed with the cooperation of a Swiss company.

The slopes and the lifts were installed according to the latest technology, said Murat Cahid Cıngı, the head of Erciyes A.Ş., the company in charge of implementing the master plan. There are currently 11 lifts that run for a total of 18,000 meters, but there will be 20 lifts running over 35,000 meters by next year when the master plan is completed, officials said.

Erciyes offered a cumulative total of 45 kilometers of slopes to skiers last year, but once the master plan is completed, winter sports enthusiasts will be able to enjoy 160 kilometers of interconnected slopes, providing Turkey’s longest non-stop skiing area.

As such, the Erciyes Tourism Center is set to become the biggest and most sophisticated ski resort in Turkey.

The first stage of the center, which will spread to 26 million square meters, was opened last year with a capacity of 500 beds. This spring, the construction of 21 additional hotels will start, some of which are slated to be finished by next season. The bed capacity is expected to increase to 2,000, although the target is to reach to 5,000 beds.

Cıngı said they had already started participating in international fairs to promote Erciyes to foreign tourists.

Tourists will be able to visit Cappadocia during the weekend and ski on Erciyes on weekdays – a move that would both benefit skiers due to fewer crowds on the slopes while also suiting local hotels, which can benefit by filling their facilities during quieter times.

Some 120 million euros have been spent so far, and the fare to access the slopes is the cheapest in Turkey because it is currently subsidized by the municipality to encourage local visitors.

Toward a new Davos

The slogan of the tourism center is based on a word play, as the Turkish word “kar” means both snow and profit. The slogan, “The snow of Erciyes is becoming profit,” reflects the entrepreneurial spirit of the city.

Kayseri is one of the strongholds of the so-called Anatolian tigers – conservative, pious entrepreneurs who have been dubbed Muslim Calvinists by some – that have boosted the Anatolian city’s welfare by exporting products around the world. That perhaps explains the presence of a big mosque right at the entrance to the tourism center.

The mayor hopes the tourism center will help Kayseri locals make greater contact with the wider world. But Özhaseki is also entertaining bigger ambitions for Erciyes. As there are plans to construct guest houses on the shores of the lakes on top of the valley, he said, “Why can’t Erciyes be a new Davos?”