Whenever my generation about to leave school or before enrolling at college had saved enough money to go on a summer vacation Spain was ‘in’ whilst Turkey was still struggling to become a hot pick except for culture savvy backpackers. Hence, there was a choice between history and hot nightclub. Besides, too many travellers – dyed-in-the-wool youth hostellers included – returned with horror stories about the state of Turkish roads, food and accommodation. Three decades later Turkey is one of the world’s leading tourism hotspots – 31 million supposedly satisfied international guests during 2011 are proof of that.
Spain had to overcome similar problems – not every tourism resort was 5-star, far from it. I recall a holiday in Rosas along the Costa Brava, complete with dusty roads, street dogs and lousy food as well as hotels, all shipped in as unwanted extras. The year was 1982.
Then house-buying started, past tourists became proud residents. Less than twenty years later around the advent of a New Millennium the bubble burst. People complained about skyrocketing house prices, expensive everyday life and in general terms began to look elsewhere. Far too many newly build houses stayed empty, leading to moon-like vistas of deserted streets and half-finished apartments.
What in the past used to be some of the more obvious choices – Spain for those on a budget (Palma perhaps?), Portugal for those in the know yet still on a budget (what about Estoril?), France for those who love French culture and food plus have a credit card (Nice springs to mind), Italy for those who love la dolce vita and for sure have two credit cards (‘Chianti-shire’), Greece for everyone else hence a blend of young and old, rich and poor, sun-seekers and businesspeople and then there were the four rather upmarket alternatives Corsica, Cyprus, Malta and Sardinia – all of a sudden had to fence off competition located between one to three hours flying time away: the Republic of Turkey!
And it looks good. Turkish and our Aegean coast’s developers and politicians can still refrain from over-the-top construction work. They can limit the number of hotels or hospitality establishments allowed to open up in a particular town or area. Walking past 50 half-empty bars simply does not cut it, but spotting twenty times ‘full house’ for sure does! Besides, a resort has to be busy, yet manageably busy. Turkey must put more efforts in the training of its chefs and tourism sector workers so as to make walk-ins repeat customers and allow staff to earn a good salary, too. Roads have to be built, infrastructure improved outside of holiday complexes. A nationwide network of B&B’s should complement that of existing hotels. For those who wish to stay for longer house prices should reflect on the nation’s ever improving economic standing and let’s face it – why would we expect to buy a 3+1 luxury villa for 15 000 Pound Sterling in Turkey while we would get just about 1/4 of that floor space (if any!) for the same amount in southern Cyprus?
Spain was a ‘cheap’ destination not judged by what the fabulous country and its welcoming people had to offer but by price tag attached to F&B and where to lay your head for the night. Then it turned expensive. Then it turned overly expensive. Then the exodus began.
Whereas the first point applies to Turkey, too, it turned expensive only in parts (think Bodrum’s 5-star all-inclusive hotels as example). What’s more, it has not turned overly expensive except for İstanbul. There has been a very small exodus but nothing noteworthy.
The climate is perfect yet Turkey has four seasons, too. Just travel inland and go skiing on a week-end or week-long trip and return to Kuşadası – an affordable piece of cake!
Turkey’s health and safety, food and beverage, accommodation and all other standards are about to improve even further.
Perhaps the best way of summing up my own choice of coming to Turkey is that we were not interested in gambling away our family’s fortunes, casino style. What we wanted instead was economic and political stability, some – but not unsustainable – returns on our investment (if ever the time comes to go back home a local buyer from Turkey’s emerging middle classes will be all too happy to buy your flat – contrary to the totally saturated Spanish market!) and a safe, charming, welcoming and almost always sunny place to both work from and live in. Without wishing to downplay Kuşadası’s enormous potential as soon becoming an Antalya Number 2 yet if you are like us – more Middle-of-the-Road than Monte Carlo – Kuşadası is the perfect place to be and Turkey, is, too, thanks to the country’s remarkable modernisation and democratisation efforts.