Thomas Cook's new off season flights to Turkish coast
Expats and travellers are abuzz with the news that Thomas Cook Airlines is now offering autumn and winter flights between the UK and Dalaman Airport.
Previously, it was difficult to visit Dalaman - the airport serving Fethiye, Gocek, Marmaris and Kalkan, among other Mediterranean destinations - during off peak months as air travellers were required to stop in Istanbul or Izmir on the way, adding precious hours to journeys.
The announcement that Thomas Cook will offer weekly flights from London Gatwick until January 4, resuming on February 12, and similarly timed trips from Manchester Airport, is yet another signifier that tourism is changing significantly in Fethiye and wider Turkey.
The rise and rise of Turkish tourism
Turkey’s location at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East has always guaranteed the country its fair share of travellers. Turkey’s heady mix of Eastern mystery with the civilised trappings of the west ensured the country was always a desirable destination, and in the 19th century nothing embodied this more than the luxury train the Orient Express, the famous passenger train that shuttled travellers between London and Istanbul.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 tourism began to change. The new Republic of Turkey was forward thinking and eager to embrace modernism, transforming the country’s infrastructure. The foundation of Turkish Airlines in 1925 ensured Turkey’s upward tourist trajectory right up until World War II.
After World War II the government further encouraged tourism by offering low-interest loans to tourism entrepreneurs, a move that saw an explosion of growth and further infrastructure development. Visitor numbers swelled, and visitors began to move away from traditional destinations like Istanbul and Bodrum and explore new parts of the Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines.
Today, tourism is going through a new evolution. While Turkey has always been known for its culture and its sandy beaches, visitors are starting to realise there are more reasons to visit this intriguing country, and people are now travelling to Turkey on business trips, for surgical and health procedures, for sporting events and more. This year, over 40 million people visited Turkey, breaking all historical records. There is little doubt that this adaptable and diverse country will be ready to meet future generations of tourists with aplomb.
A home away from home
Rising tourist numbers has inevitably gone hand in hand with increasing property ownership. Popular with the British, who have always coveted second homes in the sun, as well as Germans, Russians, Northern Europeans and Middle Eastern buyers, Turkish property purchases in areas like Bodrum, Fethiye and Antalya have risen sharply over the past decade or so.
Buyers looking for options outside the beleaguered Eurozone are finding that quality homes in Turkey are more affordable than in traditional destinations like France and Spain. Not only that, but the cost of living is comparably lower in Turkey, affording expats and holidaymakers a very decent way of life.
The economy has held fast and is still expanding, unlike the fortunes of Turkey’s Eurozone neighbours. There is currently a new wave of resale homes entering the market as the original buyers begin to sell off their investments of a decade ago for huge profits - but there is still money to be made as the economy and the housing market grow.
Flights that serve the Turkish coastline all year round will only boost the appeal of buying a second home in Turkey, or even a permanent home, as expats and their families will be able to travel back and forth to the UK from Turkey with ease.
“The world’s a small place”
Londoners Mark and Rachelle Stevenson divide their time between their Mediterranean coast getaway and their UK home. The couple bought a property in Ovacik, Fethiye four years ago and adore the lifestyle.
Mark is retired, while Rachelle is a freelancer who works from home. The couple say they have the best of both worlds with their two residences. “We spend the summer in the UK, catch up with family and friends and reacquaint ourselves with our favourite haunts,” says Mark. “When the days start to get shorter and the weather colder we fly back to Fethiye for some peace and quiet.”
The couple say they have made a concerted effort to put down roots in Turkey, with a view to moving there permanently in a few years. “We take language classes and try to assimilate as much as possible,” says Rachelle. “There’s a lot going on - excursions to historical sites, boat trips, car boot sales and clubs. People have been really welcoming and we’ve made some really good friends out here, both Turks and expats. We’ve stepped right into a ready-made community which has made the move an easy one.”
The couple bought a four-bedroom villa with a pool in Ovacik, which is handy to both Fethiye Town and the acclaimed Oludeniz Beach. Two years ago they bought a investment and rental apartment in Hisaronu, which they rent out to holidaymakers. “The rental market is very healthy here,” says Mark. “We haven’t even had to do much advertising and we were almost booked up for our second season.”
“You could say we’re evangelical about Turkey,” says Rachelle. “So much so that our neighbours back in London are now seriously considering a move here, too.”
The couple believe that the additional autumn and winter flights will help boost Fethiye’s appeal as a year-round destination. But on a personal level, they couldn’t be happier - their children are planning to fly out and spend Christmas with them in Fethiye this year. “The world’s a small place and it’s easier than it’s ever been to see places that our grandparents would have never dreamed of visiting,” says Rachelle.
Would-be travellers looking to visit Turkey can book a flight for as little as £73 return from Gatwick.