How Bodrum’s gone from holiday hotspot to international hub

Since tourism began in Turkey, Bodrum has been one of the country’s best-known destinations. Since the 1970s, the small peninsula on the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is firmly on the visitor map, attracting tourists from around the country and all over the world.

However, Bodrum is now entering a new phase, transforming from a busy tourist hub to an international destination, known for its stylish architecture, top marina facilities and exclusive resorts. We look at the reasons helping Bodrum enter a new phase of development, and why everyone from big name hotels in Bodrum to top architects and educational institutes are all vying for a stake in Bodrum.

Turkish Airlines flights

1. There are more flights than ever before

The news that Turkish Airlines is launching direct flights to Bodrum Milas Airport is considered a game changer within Turkey’s tourist industry. Until now, as with other small towns in Turkey, international flights were charter flights, made-to-order flights by package holiday operators like Thomson and Thomas Cook, with spare seats sold to tourists.

The new Turkish Airlines route from Gatwick to Bodrum has sent a message that Bodrum is well and truly on the map as far as international visitors are concerned. The move was undoubtedly a reaction to a huge jump in interest in Turkish holidays.

Turkish Airlines boss Celal Baykal agrees, saying that Bodrum and the UK go way back. “We’re delighted to be able to launch this new route, as Turkey is set to welcome back thousands of British holidaymakers this summer. We know Bodrum holds a fond place in British hearts with many owning second homes in the coastal town and we’re pleased to be making it that bit easier to enjoy.”

Property Turkey director says the new routes are a reflection Turkey’s rebounding popularity with UK visitors, and the growing interest in Bodrum and wider Turkey. “The fact that Turkish Airlines recognises Bodrum as an international destination shows that this part of Turkey is entering a new phase. It’s a great sign of things to come for the local economy, tourism, and investment.”

Mandarin Oriental

2. Top brands are (still) setting up shop

Bodrum’s reputation as a stylish, glamorous holiday destination has always been reflected in its visitors: the rich and famous have long flocked here for sun-drenched holidays. In latter years, this has been reflected in the number and calibre of big brands moving into the peninsula.

Rixos, Paramount, Mandarin Oriental, Niki Beach have all set up on the peninsula, buying up tracts of land and large resorts - and more are planned. Catering to the well-heeled visitor, these resorts offer high-end accommodation: private villas in Bodrum or apartments with private pools, and all the holiday facilities you’d expect, including gyms, saunas, restaurants, bars and even private beaches.

These large brands are changing the face and fortunes of the peninsula, boosting the local economy and the area’s global reputation as a sophisticated holiday destination. They’re also serving to transform the way tourists are catered to on the peninsula, with an increasing number of upmarket restaurants, shops and tours on offer.

3. It’s become a hotbed of architectural talent

A combination of lower land prices than other parts of Europe, and a local willingness for innovative design has seen a growing number of developments designed by renowned architects. Richard Meier, the US abstract artist and architect responsible for the Getty Center, is responsible for a development above Yalikavak, a design that melds modern design with traditional Turkish flavours.

Another landmark development, designed by award-winning South African architectural firm SAOTA, is a 75-villa residential estate located on its own peninsula, affording privacy - including a large private beach - and unfettered luxury that blends in with the coastal landscape.

Other innovative designs include a development of zero-energy buildings made from shipping containers, by Carlo Colombo, and the “Exploded House”, by GAD Architecture, who, inspired by the idea of a design explosion, created homes with living spaces that connected to the natural environment in a unique way.

Deggin says the innovative architecture in Bodrum is not only putting places like Yalikavak - where a number of the developments are located - on the map, it’s helping drive property prices ever higher. “With designs like Richard Meier’s, you’re changing the local landscape in a number of ways. It’s exciting to see these kinds of projects, something out of the ordinary and a little different than what’s usually seen in developing towns.”

schools in Turkey

4. It’s a growing centre for education

Some of Turkey’s larger educational institutions are moving into Bodrum, with others scouting around for suitable locations for campuses. The last few years have seen Bodrum grow from offering just one international school, to the home to some of the finest facilities, including TED College, American Culture College, Doga Schools and Bahcesehir College.

As we’ve already pointed out, Bodrum is becoming more international, and, as travel infrastructure improves, more accessible. Wealthy Turks and international families relocating to Bodrum from Istanbul and further afield are finding the kind of choice for their children’s education that was once only available in larger centres.

5. It’s an established marina centre

The Palmarina renovation a few years ago helped put Bodrum well and truly on the yachting map. The peninsula is home to several marinas: Palmarina in Yalikavak, Milta Marina in Bodrum centre and D Marin in Turgutreis. Without exception, the marinas are top notch facilities for international sailors coming from all over the world, and attracting some of the world’s biggest names - and largest yachts.

The success of Bodrum’s marinas has had a knock on effect on everything from transport infrastructure to property investment, with property prices adjacent to marinas rising along with visitor numbers, and an increase in demand for property for sale in Bodrum's marina locations.

What’s driving Bodrum into the international spotlight?

Property Turkey director Cameron Deggin says Bodrum’s growing reputation as a global hub is the result of a few colliding factors.

“Bodrum has always been seen by wealthy Istanbulites as the outermost suburb of Istanbul, and they’ve always had holiday homes here. However, today, with telecommunications and travel infrastructure improving connectivity, we’re seeing a shift: instead of travelling to Bodrum at the weekend, people are relocating to the peninsula and traveling to Istanbul here and there to meet clients or attend meetings. Everything else is done online.”

The reason Turks want to settle in Bodrum is not unlike the reasons for international visitors, he points out. “Easy life, good food, a great climate, and a western, liberal culture.”

A natural knock-on effect of this shift has been the emergence of lifestyle facilities, like universities, hospitals and malls. “What was once the playground of the privileged has become a new home.”

And of course, interest in property investment in Bodrum is now reaching a peak, he says. “It’s simply becoming one of the best places in Turkey to invest. Soon, every inch of earth will become gold dust in Bodrum simply because there is no other Bodrum, not in Turkey, or anywhere else.

Deggin points out the quote from Cevat Sakir, the poet known as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus. It’s often quoted by those who love the peninsula, because it’s so apt, he says.

“Merhaba! When you reach to the top of this hill, you will see Bodrum. Don’t think that you will leave the same person as when you arrived. To all those who came before you, it happened that way: they lost their hearts in Bodrum.”


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