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14 Feb 2012
GR Report, Mary Gostelow, 2012
CENTRAL ASIA AND TURKEY HOTEL INVESTMENT CONFERENCE CATHIC 6-8 February 2012 Istanbul
The most useful interchange was BDO Hospitality Consulting managing partner Mehmet Onkal’s regional update of brands now and to come.
Armenia – Yerevan Marriott (to come, Hilton); Azerbaijan – Baku Hilton, Hyatt Regency, JW Marriott, Kempinski, Park Hyatt, Radisson Blu (to come, Fairmont, Four Seasons); Georgia – Batumi Radisson Blu, Sheraton (to come, Hilton, Kempinski), Tbilisi Marriott, Radisson Blu, Sheraton; Iran – no brands, no pipeline; Iraq – Erbil Rotana (to come, Dedeman, Hilton, Kempinski) and Baghdad government has several hotels it wants brands to take over; Kazakhstan – Almaty InterCon, Kempinski (to come, JW Marriott), Astana –Radisson Blu; Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek Hyatt Regency; Syria – situation unclear right now; Tajikistan – Dushanbe Hyatt Regency; Turkmenistan - Ashgabat Sofitel; Uzbekistan – Tashkent InterCon, Radisson Blu. • And, of course, Turkey. The country already has 65 internationally branded hotels (all levels) with a pipeline of a further 52 brands. The 150km-long Istanbul state, rapidly being absorbed into Istanbul city, has 39 brands and 24 more to come. Of all the big brands, Hilton has had the right approach for Turkey , he says. They set up a development base in Ankara in 2008, moved it to Istanbul in 2010 and quickly saw rewards
Turkey is the hottest destination in the area, if not the world at the moment, says Onkal. Marriott is talking about 15 projects. Within the past 4 days, there were Bodrum signings for Amanresorts, Canyon Ranch, Jumeirah and Mandarin Oriental. Challenges to getting into Istanbul include an absolute shortage of central land and if you find it, the cost is about $18,500 per sq m; you need a local partner as all existing hotels are locally owned, and banks do not like lending to the sector. But yes, there is still room for more peripheral hotels. Turkey’s international visitors grew 20% in 2011 over 2010, and now Turkish Airlines has 52 weekly flights Istanbul-London, with British Airways adding a further 21 a week.
The 2-day conference, chaired jointly by organisers Marilyn McHugh vp global hospitality events Questex Hospitality and Travel, and Jonathan Worsley, chairman Bench Events and board member STR Global, was themed Unlock the Potential. It attracted 330 delegates from 33 countries; 42% from Turkey, 22% from UK. 30% were operators, 22% developers or financiers, 5% government officials (including delegations from Argentina and Morocco) • As invariably happens, the keynote ceos’ panel resulted in no-one saying anything new – thank goodness Rezidor’s Kurt Ritter wore a purple tie to relieve the otherwise-funereal couture. There was more animation on the regional bosses’ panel, with Hilton’s Simon Vincent saying he would invest where necessary, and Starwood Hotels’ Roeland Vos looking for a partner to roll out Aloft, fast, and he wants more resorts, where his company has a long history of making money.
What resorts of the future will look like featured in the packed Luxury hotels that stand out from the crowd session – WATG vp John Goldwyn – whose personal hero is Bill Bensley – casually mentioned a massive Caspian Sea mixed-use project that is set to include not only resort and residences but helipad, landing strip and train station. His companions
Alper Aksoy, owner of the 600r Istanbul Conrad (that was supposed, pre-xxx opening, to be Marriott), and Atilla Oztürk, ceo Astay, the textiles conglomerate whose hotel portfolio includes both Istanbul Four Seasons, stressed the importance of history and reputation, and need for owners and operators to work together continuously to keep ahead, and stand out. Sofitel ceo Richard Gaymer-Jones, by contrast, looked ahead to having a hotel in town. His is one of the few international brands (count’em on one hand) not yet in Turkey.
The 2012 Leadership Award went to Dedeman chairman, Murat Dedeman, who, with typical Turkish humility, said what a big honour this was, and without a great team it is impossible to achieve success. The week-old Istanbul Le Méridien hosted the opening cocktail, to show off that brand’s new look, with a day-glo blue-lit off-lobby meeting ‘igloo’, 265 beige, grey and black rooms with moulded ceilings like sand-ripples – this was corporate brand manager’s Eva Zwiegler’s swansong as she leaves end of March. The conference was overall hosted by the franchised Istanbul Ceylan InterCon (IHG’s Angela Brav was making her debut as ceo Europe). Interestingly, while in years past there was a continuous move to get delegates to turn mobiles off, this year where was a concerted effort to be part-of-the-proceedings, via the ghastly twitter.