Bernie Baldwin

Connect 2020’s host airport, Fraport TAV Antalya, is the mediterranean’s busiest airport for travellers.

AYT saw 35 million passengers pass through in 2019. Last year brought a change in the order of where visitors came from, with Russia taking the No 1 slot (8 million) followed by Germany and the UK in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The city welcomed 60 million guests last year, according to Yeliz Gül Ege, chair of the Board at the Antalya Promotion Foundation. And she sees no reason why 2020 should not be another record year for the country and for Antalya.

“It was fascinating to see how in 2015-2017, people were saying Turkish tourism was dead,” says SunExpress CCO, Peter Glade. “The key has been the rebound capabilities and the focus. Although we’ve done cost-cutting measures, none has been in the way the visitors were treated. They went home and told how high the quality was for not a great deal of money.

“Antalya has always been accessible. Somewhere like Hurghada has no incumbent airline, whereas AYT has SunExpress,” he highlights. “We’ve done it step-by-step, with a sustainable plan and working together. “The question is now, what do we want to go after – quantity – more infrastructure? Or do we broaden the offer? Well, Antalya has high quality food with natural ingredients, culture and highest number of spas per square metre. So we believe it should be about quality and the number of months that people come to Antalya. From that, there will be a lot of record years ahead,” Glade predicts.

Ozge Kucukcan, business planning and marketing manager, TAV Airports, confirms the aim of making Antalya an all-year-round destination. “MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) are very important outside the high season. But we also has great golf courses which bring in many travellers. So we definitely want Antalya to be seen as more than sand and sea. We want to promote the culture here,” she emphasises.

Regarding the required connections for all that to happen, Kucukcan views the European market as being mature, but believes the Middle East and CIS countries offer big growth opportunities. “We also expect to see long-haul flights launched into Antalya. China, once the Coronavirus situation is over, has huge demand,” she concludes.