Articles / Rubric: Life-Style

Fine Point
October 2012 | Life-Style

A new hotel recently opened in Istanbul, but it has not helped the tourist business in the city in any way. The hotel has been purposely designed for business people, not for tourists looking to have a good time.


The layout of the town and the location of the hotel are to blame. The residents of Istanbul love to complain about the city’s many traffic jams, which Moscow citizens can understand. But local Turkish congestion is very different from the many highway standstills that Moscow experiences. Needless to say, Russians visiting Istanbul can get very jealous – the Municipality of Istanbul has a lot to be proud of when it comes to their road system, no matter how much local citizens complain. The capital has a population of 13 million people, spread over 5 thousand square meters and two different continents. But its urban planning is a matter of envy. The huge walled city, which was built in the 5th century and dates back to the Byzantine Empire, is located on the shores of Europe. There are a huge amount of monuments, temples, restaurants, and shops, and tourists can be seen wandering through the city in large crowds – sometimes, it seems as though there are more tourists than locals. But on the more narrow and ancient streets of Istanbul, there are no parked cars, and it is very rare for a tourist bus, tram, or city scooter to pass through.

Most of Istanbul’s business gets done in the areas where tourists do not go – these parts of the city are populated with the glass skyscrapers that distinguish business centers, offices doing business, packed parking lots, and business managers stuck in traffic jams. Several years ago, the city’s administration came to the conclusion that Istanbul’s business activity is increasing because of the worsening congestion problem, an issue that needs to be solved as soon as possible. In addition, Istanbul is going to be competing against Tokyo and Madrid for the right to organize the 2020 Olympic Games, which gives the city more incentive to fix its traffic problems. One of the most problematic areas in Istanbul is where the continents of Asia and Europe meet. The burden of the heavy traffic passing through falls onto several bridges and regular ferry routes. It was recently decided that another bridge should be built over the Bosphorus, and with the addition of a third airport on the coast of the Black Sea, which will be built for the city of “New Istanbul” next to the potential Olympic village, the load will be eased off of the Sabiha Gokcen airport on the Asian side, which can barely cope with all the passenger traffic in conjunction with Istanbul’s other main airport, Atatürk.

Because of all these demands, the City Financial Center (or the “Ataşehir Finans Merkezi”) was built in the Ataşehir area of Istanbul, about 20 minutes from the Asian airport. There is also a main road that runs from Ankara to Istanbul in the same area. As part of the construction, more than 2.5 million square meters will be rented out, and even though the financial center will not be finished any time soon, many of the buildings have been completed and the city’s business activity is starting to move over to the center. The new office buildings are going to be used by some of the major Turkish banks, such as Halkbank, Vakifbank, and Ziraat Bank, whose headquarters were previously based in Ankara. These will be followed by the Agency for Banking Regulation and Supervision (the BDDK), the Capital Markets Board (SPK), and possibly the Turkish Central Bank. The idea was first proposed in 2007, by then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Overall, the financial center will have 30 thousand job opens, and employees are being offered to move into one of the 18 thousand luxury apartments that are being built in the skyscrapers as well. The center is also trying to ensure excellent conditions for its visitors, but it is already easy to feel the influence of private competition over government regulation.

When the construction of the new business center was first announced, all of the major hotel chains took note at once. Mariott was one of the first to jump on the opportunity, and for some years, it was the only 5-star hotel in the financial center – an arrangement that was not terribly convenient for the center’s visitors, but was incredibly beneficial for Mariott. But a second hotel was opened in May of 2012, the Radisson Blu Istanbul Asia – the third “Rezidor” hotel in the Turkish capital. The most expensive of these is the Radisson Blu Bosphorus, located on a scenic boardwalk that provides exquisite views of the mazing Turkish sunsets. It is also very close to the city’s historic center, so the hotel is often packed with tourists and is difficult to stay in without reservations made far in advance. The second of these is the Radisson Blu Conference and Airport Hotel, a hotel that is designed for business travelers, as the name suggests. And the latest Radisson hotel is also intended for business purposes.

Financial life around the area has not yet reached its full capacity. Large-scale construction projects continue in neighboring districts, and until a specific metro line is built for the area, all the ancient tourist sites are twenty minutes away by taxi, as well as a ferry ride and/or drive-around. Overall, traveling to these tourist areas can take up to an hour. For that reason, the room rates in this Radisson are significantly lower than the rates in the other Turkish Radissons. Later on, according to general manager Claude Bulté, the prices will be raised to “normal” levels. In terms of interior decorating, the popular local designer, Sinan Kafadar, kept the hotel calming and relaxing. “Compared to the Antalya hotel, which is popular among Russian tourists specifically, it is like heaven and earth – the difference is that drastic,” one of the waiters reports happily, who may have transferred to this particular hotel for peace and quiet. As for the chefs at the hotel, they work hard, but their menu is not as heavy as traditional menu options from the East. This is part of the brand’s principle image that they are trying to create. The hotel’s rooms are also very comfortable to work in – there is a comfortable desk in every room and a very convenient console with connectors. And even though the SPA center is not finished yet, its 13 meeting rooms are already working at full capacity. The old saying, “business before pleasure”, is very applicable in Istanbul’s new hotel.

Text: Sofia Ponomareva


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