Why 2016 might be the year of Antalya

Turkey’s largest southern centre made international headlines last year when the city played host to the G20 summit. This year, despite a fall in the number of Russian tourists due to a conflict between Turkey and Russia, Antalya’s star continues to rise, with much development in the works and the opening of this week’s Expo 2016.

We look at the background behind Antalya’s success - and why it’ll continue to become bigger and better as the months go by.

Mediterranean superstar

The last couple of decades have seen Antalya’s population boom from a few hundred thousand to two million. New industries have blossomed, attracting a large proportion of Turkey’s young, educated professionals attracted by the city’s changing economic fortunes. Infrastructure has improved immeasurably, with travel links via Antalya Airport - now one of the busiest in the northern hemisphere - conveying travellers to and from Europe and the Middle East.

With beach resorts Side, Belek and Kemer just a short drive away, Antalya’s cachet as a tourist destination has always been strong. However, over the last few years - thanks to some clever marketing and the area’s growth as a year-round destination - have seen Antalya’s tourist numbers soar, with about 10 million visitors each year. That means one in three people who visit Turkey this year will go to the Mediterranean city.

Property purchases in Antalya have followed the same trajectory, and around 2000 Antalya homes are bought by foreign buyers each year.

Antalya in the spotlight

G20 Summit

Last year’s G20 summit saw world leaders including British PM David Cameron and US President Barack Obama head to Antalya to talk over matters of political and financial importance. The world meeting was a welcome boost for tourism, and it’s estimated that the promotional opportunities generated by the summit totalled over US$1 billion.

Although we’re well into 2016, the knock-on effects of the meeting are still being felt, especially in the numbers of Arab visitors travelling to the region. Last year, Middle Eastern visitors made up 15% of the tourist share in Turkey. This year, that number is expected to be more like 25%. A hotel where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stayed during the summit has even become a favourite film spot for producers filming Middle Eastern television shows, and the hotel is preparing packages for the Middle Eastern tourists who’ll inevitably want to stay at the film location.

Bogacayi Project                  

Antalya has increasingly been a focus for investors. Limited building space, coupled with high demand for properties to buy and rent, has seen property prices rise year after year - even during the financial crisis.

The latest construction development, the US$1 billion Bogacayi Project, is set to dominate the city’s future, adding brand value and providing 10,000 new jobs.

Featuring two marinas real estate and leisure centres, the development, dubbed “The Project of the Century,” will drive up prices in Antalya as well as neighbouring regions. The development will allow access to 40 kilometres of coastline and open up walking trails and outdoor leisure facilities.

Expo 2016

Expo 2016 opened its doors at the weekend, heralding a welcome boost to tourism and allowing another chance for Antalya to shine. With the theme “Flower and Child”, the event is set to raise environmental awareness as well as promote Turkish culture and tourism around the world.

The region has invested $641,000 into the event, which includes a number of national and international cultural and arts events like a biodiversity museum, activity centres for children, science and technology centres and a digital library. Money was also ploughed into local infrastructure: the rail system, the cleaning up of local waterways and local roads. Officials expect around five million domestic and international tourists to visit the Expo over the coming six months.

Afterwards, the Expo grounds will become a public botanical park - five million flowers and 25,000 trees were planted in the 600,000sqm space - and congress centre - in keeping with the sustainability theme of the event.

Health tourism

Health tourism is one of Turkey’s fastest-growing sectors, and Antalya is second only to Istanbul as a destination for surgeries, both lifesaving and cosmetic. Official say the current $1.5 billion revenue could be increased to $5 billion over the next two years as they look to boost and diversify the country’s tourist appeal.

In 2010 109,000 medical tourists visited Turkey. In 2014 this number was 583,000, thanks to a rise in numbers of tourists travelling from Libya, Iraq and Germany.

Antalya is a favoured spot due to its seaside location - and of course the many top-quality medical institutions offering organ transplants, hair transplants, heart surgery and plastic surgery, all at a fraction of the back-home cost.

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