It is a story of a town; from an exile place to jet-set resort

AIDA Tours
It is a story of a town; from an exile place to jet-set resort

Recently a great hue and cry has been raised at the local resorts. Due to COVID-19, the borders are closed, but the people can have a beach holiday only once a year.  As the result, in Krasnodar Krai and Crimea there was a real nightmare. All hotels were fully booked; the prices went up to 30% - 80%. The beaches were so full that it was difficult to pass by and not to step on someone. And when you were in the sea, you had a feeling like you are in a full bus during the rush hour. And the question is why haven’t new resort zones been constructed after the collapse of the USSR and why must people sunbathe by stumbling on each other? The AIF columnist turned attention to Turkey, where new beach resorts spring up very often.

The prison resort

Mrs. Adviye Bergemann, the owner of “Aida Tours” agency, tells, “Once Bodrum was a poor fisherman town, real backwoods. We even have a folk song: Where to get a kebab? Only one butcher lives in Bodrum. Where to find a bread? There is only one baker in Bodrum. Where to drink milk? There is only one cow in Bodrum and it is very far away.”  

It was an unknown place, where during the Ottoman Empire guilty people were exiled to. The local people make a living from fishing and sponge fishing.  But in 1925, the Government found a writer, Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, guilty for one of his articles and exiled to Bodrum. He fell in love with the Bodrum nature and architecture and wrote rave books about Bodrum. Since that time Bodrum became popular among Turks and they started spending their holiday in Bodrum, coming there from Istanbul. In 1997 the Bodrum airport was built and opened to international traffic. The European tourists started to come for holiday and Bodrum became more famous and popular.   

The beach state

Although at the beginning of the XXth century this place was not a paradise for the exiled people, after Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı’s books Bodrum became a favorite holiday place for Turkish Bohemians, who loved privacy: it was not so noisy and crowded like Antalya. Actually very few people in Turkey knew the Bodrum beaches and landmarks. And suddenly within just 25 years Bodrum has become a fashionable and expensive resort and it is difficult to find a vacant room in the local hotels during the season.  I wonder why hasn’t it happened with our Black Sea villages within the last ten years? In summer people go to Sochi and Crimea and stay in the time-tested but dilapidated Soviet guesthouses and hotels. But recently there are no new and even renovated hotels there. 

Mr Burak Öymen, one of the owners of Six Senses, tells, «There was no need to create something extraordinary in Bodrum. The perfect location, clean beaches, crystal clear water is an absolute and complete success. Therefore we immediately started to construct hotel complexes with private villas and apartments along the Aegean Sea, where people can live throughout the year. The season in Bodrum lasts for 7 months. Some people swim even in December, as the sea temperature is +17C+18C.  Without doubt the isolated spots were chosen for construction and along with the hotel we should have taken care of restaurants on the hotel’s territory and shops within walking distance. I am planning to continue the development of my project: to create a real beach town or even beach state.”

Battle with “All Inclusive”

Nowadays I can hardly believe that luxury Bodrum was an unknown village – kind of our Arkhipo-Osipovka, Dzhubga village or Inal Bay on the Black Sea coast. A few decades ago Turkish tourists rented small wooden houses, which were located on the present luxury hotel sites, and brought their own food to cook it on the open fire.

Mr Marc Matar, General Manager at The Bodrum Edition, explains, “Since the start of Bodrum promotion as one of the best resort of Turkey, we have decided to take a different approach. Why do we need one more clone-resort like Antalya with its hotels on AI basis? That’s why the hotels working on «All Inclusive» basis are rare here. The tourists must be impressed with excellent service and exquisite cuisine in Bodrum. We would like to impress our guests with something special in order they will definitely return to our hotel next time. Nowadays just good sea is not enough to impress the people, they pay attention to the quality of the food, service and the level of room’s equipment and features. In Turkey there is so much competition among the hotels and you must always be the best to stay afloat. For example, even music is composed specifically for our hotel.”


Exile as promotion

And indeed, it is an unusual decision: how can it be without “All-Inclusive”? It is an easy way for tourists to pay once and no need to think if there is enough money up to the end of the holiday. But Turks picked up on some tourists’ desire to get “other holiday” without food queue, animators and crowded beaches.    

Mrs. Adviye Bergemann, the owner of “Aida Tours” agency, comments on, “Let’s see the Bodrum development during the past half-centery. Influenced by Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı,  first musicians, performers, and artists came here. Then came politicians, businessmen, sportsmen, and then rich foreign tourists. Even my Russian clients, who came to Bodrum due to Covid-19 and closure of the borders, were so much impressed by Bodrum, comparing it with the Côte d'Azur, the French Riviera. I think it is quite possible to promote new Russian resorts if to do it competently.”

So what should we do? Should we exile a few our writers to the Black Sea to promote our local holiday places? I don’t think it will help. However even Ukraine has recently announced about the construction of a new resort on the coast of the Black Sea in Odessa province, they are planning to invest one billion US dollars into this project. In the face of Covid-19 pandemic Russian citizens have a frenetic demand on our own resorts, but unfortunately the only conclusions, our businessmen have drawn during this year, is to get as much money as possible out of the tourists.

Following the Bodrum example, many various holiday places in Russia could be created to suit all tastes and budgets. It would be much better, as it means competition and choice. Now owners of numerous hotels and cafes in Crimea and Sochi think that why I should provide good service and cook delicious food, the tourists have already come this year and will have to come next year as they don’t have another choice. Thanks to this «smart» position our tourists choose Turkey. This should come as no surprise.