With the financial crisis well and truly behind them, Turkey’s middle class are spending money again. And what’s on this year’s wishlist? Yachts. Twenty seven luxury sailing yachts were launched off the coast of Antalya last year, the average build of 17 metres signifying that yachts are getting bigger and better. Turkey is currently the third largest producer of yachts after the US and the Netherlands, and a large amount of the work is done in the Antalya Free Trade Zone.
Free Zone yacht boom
Turkey’s free zones, introduced in the late 80s, are enclosed areas where regulations allow operators to promote the exports of goods and services within a more flexible and convenient business climate. The end result: increasing foreign investment and trade, and enhancing technology.
General manager of the Antalya Free Trade Zone Zeki Gurses said there are two large yachts currently being constructed - measuring 60 metres and 63 metres respectively - that will be put into the sea later in the year. Yacht companies in the Free Trade Zone currently have orders for 90 yachts, 20 to 30 of which would be built by the end of the year.
The expansion within the Free Trade Zone has meant that there is little space left for new companies. Presently, there are 110 companies - 57 of those yacht companies - and 4600 employees. By the end of the year the number of employees is expected to rise to 5000.
The Zone did $833 million worth of business last year, and Gurses expects that figure to reach $1 billion by the end of 2015.
The rising numbers of wealthy Turks - a recent analysis discovered that there were 35,000 millionaires in Istanbul alone- mean there’s a corresponding rise in the demand for yachts, particularly for 15-22 metre vessels. There’s also a swelling demand for superyachts, which are vessels of up to 40 metres in length.
And right at the top end of the scale, you have your mega yachts, owned by the likes of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Abramovich’s 162 metre Eclipse is often seen in Bodrum, cruising round the bays before anchoring in Yalikavak’s Palmarina.
Chelsea football club owner Abramovich loves Bodrum and returns here each year with Eclipse. Valued at $1.2 billion, the yacht is one of the most luxurious in the world. Kitted out with two helicopter pads, 24 guest cabins, two swimming pools, a number of hot tubs and even a disco hall and mini submarine, it sounds a lot like something you’d find in a Bond film.
Sailing the three seas
For the rest of us, with more modest budgets that don’t extend to helipads and the hiring of 70 crew members, Turkey is still a very tempting destination for a sailing holiday. With three seas - the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean - there is huge scope for exploration and adventure. Costs are still low and marina facilities are excellent. If you don’t own a yacht there are opportunities to hire a vessel or join a sailing trip along the coastline.
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