Asmita Mukherjee | Turkiye
Turkiye has always been a popular destination among Indian tourists due to the ease of visa processing, direct connectivity, ancient silk route connection, and similarity between the languages and beverages consumed, be it chai/Turkish tea or halva. The country has reported a surge in the number of Indian tourists for different segments such as Foreign Independent Travel (FIT), leisure and MICE. Turkiye’s tourism board said in a recent statement that among the 51.4 million international tourists received by the country in 2022, 2.32 million were Indian tourists.
To deepen the relationship with Indian tourists, especially for the MICE segment, TravelBiz Monitor was recently invited by the Turkiye tourism board for a 6-day familiarisation tour to the country which focused on two cities, Antalya and Istanbul.
Our journey to Antalya started on February 18 on a comfortable business class flight of Turkish Airlines from Mumbai to Istanbul which took 7 hr 10 mins. On reaching Istanbul we rested a bit at the comfortable plush business lounge and got introduced to tons of mouth-watering Turkish delicacies along with Turkish tea. After an hour or so, we resumed our journey to beautiful Antalya. From Istanbul by flight, it took us around 1 hr 20 minutes to reach our destination.
The breezy sunny evening of Antalya welcomed us with its full grace. Antalya is truly an all-season destination which amalgamates sun, sea, and ancient history with nature. The destination is well connected via airports and boasts of excellent public transport infrastructure which includes buses, railways, and taxis, increasing the convenience factor for locals as well as for tourists. To its visitors, Antalya offers a 640-kilometre stretch of Mediterranean coastline in the backdrop of the Taurus Mountains. Our stay was at the Hotel Gloria Golf Resort which is situated in Belek – a resort town on the Turkish Riviera. The way to the hotel was very scenic, with the road revolving around the snow-capped Taurus Mountains, and going past miles of orange orchards. We learnt that Antalya is known for growing its own consumable fruits such as apples, pears, plums, quince, peach, apricot, grapes, tangerine, lemon, and grapefruit.
Global markets is a area of focus for Antalya and the destination attracts a lot of foreign investment as well. Most hotels in Antalya have the capacity to cater for medium to very large groups. The ‘all-inclusive’ system available in Antalya is one of the many Unique Selling Points of the destination, which makes it a budget-friendly destination for MICE organisers as well as for FITs. The city boasts of large-scale conference facilities, with lots of experience in organising sports events and is also known for its luxurious Golf resorts. As Antalya offers unique seafront views in the backdrop of the majestic Taurus Mountain, the destination is surely the right choice to organise a team conference or an event. During our short stay in Antalya, we visited a few hotels and convention centres to understand their capacity and attractiveness from an Indian business or leisure tourist perspective.
Gloria Hotels and Resorts
Gloria is one of the biggest hotel brands in Antalya located in Belek. The brand has three hotels under its umbrella such as Gloria Golf Resort, which consists of 515 well-appointed rooms; Gloria Serenity Resort – which boasts 369 rooms; and Gloria Verde Resort which has 293 well-appointed rooms. The brand also has a sports arena for outdoor sports, indoor sports, and aquatic sports and ample space for organising big events and conventions.
NEST Congress and Exhibition Centre
NEST is located in the heart of the Belek, 32 km from the airport and 45 km from the city centre. With a seating capacity of 10,000 people in the main hall, NEST offers Turkey’s largest capacity in a single hall. It hosts a 5,000 square metre ground floor comprising 24 meeting halls with 5-metre ceiling heights, in addition to the airy Main Hall, featuring 10-metre-high ceilings, which can be divided into five sections.
Regnum Carya Hotel
Regnum Carya is a five-star luxury all-inclusive Golf & Spa Resort having a total of 612 rooms. The hotel added a feather to its cap when it hosted the G-20 World Summit in November 2015. It boasts of a first-class 7500 square-meter convention centre with a private entrance, a 2100 square-meter column-free ballroom and 13 meeting halls which receive natural light.
Land of Legends
The Land of Legends is an amalgamation of a huge entertainment/ theme park, luxury stay, shopping experience and unmatchable dining experience. The Kingdom Hotel located at the Land of Legends has 401 rooms, a fitness room, Turkish Hammam, a swimming pool, Eternia Restaurant, Nyssa Bar, and The Legends Pub.
Titanic Mardan Palace
Titanic Mardan Palace is an all-inclusive hotel located at Kundu in Antalya. It offers 546 rooms and as many as 19 meeting rooms which can accommodate up to 2,720 people. This palatial resort features one of the largest outdoor pools in Europe and 8 à la carte restaurants.
The Hotel RuinAdalia is located near Mermerli Beach in the old city known as Kaleiçi. The adult-only hotel is formed by the meeting of five separate Ottoman houses belonging to the 19th century. The hotel has a museum in the underground. Traces of the street and street textures of the city’s historical process from the Roman Period to the Ottoman Period, walls of religious and civil architectural structures, architectural blocks, various floor coverings, workshops, water and sewerage systems are revealed in a complex order. Beneath the hotel site is now the largest part of the ancient city that has ever been excavated. The hotel offers 26 well-appointed rooms.
Aspendos Ancient City
Situated in the town of Serik in Antalya province, Aspendos impresses visitors with its elegant amphitheatre and other ancient remains. The theatre of Aspendos is one of the most magnificent and well-preserved buildings in the world built by the Romans. It also organises a lot of cultural events.
Hadrian’s Gate of Antalya
Hadrian’s Gate (Three Gates) was built as the main gate of Antalya during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 BC). The gate today stands in its old glory and is one of the best-preserved historic structures in Antalya.
Old Town (Kaleiçi)
Kaleici, the old city centre of Antalya, combines the aesthetics of old and new. In the heart of Antalya, Kaleici is one of the most frequently visited areas of the city with its historic buildings, entertainment facilities, hotels, restaurants and bars.
Turkish cuisine has a lot of similarities with Indian food from kebab, pilaf to halva. What can be witnessed is that all the restaurants serve very balanced meals. Even if someone orders a lot of non-vegetarian food, the meal will be accompanied by an equal quantity of vegetables to balance it.
During our stay, we had our meals in some of the beautiful restaurants of Antalya which need special mention such as Hotel Harem A’la Carte at the Gloria Golf Resort, Piazzetta Italiana serving authentic Italian fare located at the Land of Legends, Bosphorus Restaurant – a fusion of Eastern and Western cuisines located at the Titanic Mardan palace, and RuinAdalia Restaurant for its authentic Turkish cuisine.
Our first dinner at Antalya was scheduled at the Hotel Harem A’la Carte at the Gloria Golf Resort. The décor of the restaurant was posh and at the same time, it gave an authentic Turkish-style vibe with the food undoubtedly truly authentic Turkish. The a la carte menu had many options such as Mezze Platter as a starter, Lamb Shank, Sea bass, and Butter Chicken. Along with the authentic Turkish fare, the restaurant also offers some Chinese delicacies such as Crispy Fried Duck, Sweet and Sour Chicken along with Egg Fried Rice. The dinner not only filled our stomach but filled our hearts with the unmatchable hospitality of the server.
The next day our lunch was set at the Piazzetta Italiana located at The Land of Legends, which served some of the best authentic Italian fare we ever had. Our servings started with Eggplant Parmesan along with healthy salads, Pizzas, Grilled Italian Chicken, and Seared Sea bass, ended with Italian Panna cotta and Mousse.
For dinner that day, we headed to the Bosphorus Restaurant located at the magnificent Titanic Mardan palace. The buffet dinner made it very difficult for us to choose from the numerous mouth-watering options at the counter. However, what surprised us was the presence of our humble Dal and Chawal among the options. For dessert, we chose the traditional Turkish dessert baklava which was heavenly. After the satisfying meal, we ended the meal with Turkish Chai.
The last meal of our Antalya trip was scheduled at the RuinAdaliya Restaurant located among the historic lanes of Kaleiçi. The restaurant was situated in an Ottoman mansion of the 19th and 20th century periods, which made us feel like we were dining in a heritage yet boutique property. The appetising meal started off with freshly baked bread served alongside authentic dips such as Humus, Muhammara, and Acili Ezme. In the main course, we had Turkish Chicken Breast loaded with veggies such as Cauliflower, Broccoli, Petite Potatoes, Aubergine and Red Pepper. We ended the lunch with Semolina Halva which was made just the way we have in India.