Five-star fever risks hotel glut in Istanbul

This US-owned luxury hotel opened in Istanbul's business district in 2014.
PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

ISTANBUL - One of the world's most popular travel destinations, Istanbul is seeing a flurry of new luxury hotels popping up. While the rush speaks to the city's pull among holidaymakers and international conferences, some observers say a glut is in the making. Room rates at posh establishments are already falling due to the sheer volume of rooms available.

Despite such warning signs, the hotels keep coming. Singapore-based chain Raffles opened its first hotel in Turkey in September last year. The facility is located in Zorlu Center, a high-end business and shopping complex in central Istanbul. In March this year, St. Regis Hotel, a Starwood Hotels and Resorts brand, moved into the city. Next year, Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental and Fairmont of Canada are set to open hotels there.

Tourist magnet

A tourism trend is fueling the trend. According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization, foreign arrivals in Turkey totaled some 40 million in 2014, making the country the world's sixth-largest tourist destination that year. Istanbul alone received roughly 12 million people, including transit visitors.

The city is home to renowned Unesco World Heritage sites, including the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum. While the number of visitors to Turkey has remained flat this year compared with last year, Istanbul is attracting people at a faster clip.

Business visitors are crucial for hotels. From Istanbul, there are 53 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia that travelers can fly to in less than four hours. According to the International Congress and Convention Association, the city hosted 130 major international conferences in 2014, making it the ninth-most popular site for such events.

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