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Is Turkey the best-kept secret in the Med?

by Guy Nowell, Asia Yacht Press 24 May 08:39 PDT
TYBA Yacht Charter Show 2024, Gôcek, Turkey © Guy Nowell

Mention the Med, and everyone thinks of the French and Italian Rivieras. Mention cruising, and they add in the Greek Islands. But you only have to go a little further east to discover the spectacular and beautiful Turquoise Coast, and a huge part of the history and cradle of western civilization. Turkey is full to the brim with ancient archaeological sites that actually overflow into the sea. A shipwreck at Uluburun is reputed to be the oldest in the world, and the azure waters, secluded bays, and sugar sand beaches are all punctuated by historical and vibrant towns such as Bodrum, Antalya, Bodrum, Fethiye, and Kusadasi. The coast line is redolent of ancient history, and at the same time a sea-borne playground.

Welcome to Turkey, the most understated boating experience in the Mediterranean. Of course, the best way to get around here is by water, and the best way to do that is on a luxurious chartered yacht that will take you wherever you want to go, and in the utmost attentive luxury. Think of a private floating hotel that moves from place to place - or just stays still if you prefer. Think of lazy days at anchor, marked by the transitions from white, to rosé, to red wine. Or think of shore excursions to discover ancient temples, scuba diving in gin-clear water, snorkelling, and water-skiing - all from the comfort, privacy, and convenience of your movable hotel.

Every year the Turkish Yachting & Brokers' Association (TYBA) presents a Charter Show in order to showcase to both brokers and the press the range and unabashed luxury of the local charter fleet. This year the event took place in D-Marin, Göcek, and put on display 52 sailing yachts, motor yachts, and traditional Turkish gulet motor-sailors ranging from 20m to 55m, and with capacities from 6 to 36 guests. The brokers - 350 of them from around the globe - come, and inspect. They take note of which companies are refurbishing and refitting their vessels, and who is new in the market. They take notes, and then they go home and recommend boats and itineraries to the lucky people who are about to embark on a Turkish yacht charter holiday. The international press were invited too, to take a look and to better appreciate the sparkling potential of Turkish marine tourism.

The show also included a series of informational seminars, aimed at both brokers and the press. Topics covered by the presentations included a close look at TYBA Charter Contracts, Protection of Privacy of Charter Guests, Crisis Management in Chartering, Gastronomy and Sustainability, Coastal Cruising Routes from Karia to Phamphylia, and Online Marketing Strategy for Brokers.

Five days of boat visits, lunches, seminars, boat-hops, shore parties and intense socialising (call it 'research') culminated in a three-day cruise on board the traditional Turkish Gulet Atalante, 24m, 8 guests. Under the watchful and hospitable eye of Capt. Abdullah Gilik, six members of the international press cruised from Göcek to Marmaris with a stop in Ekinçek, and including an unexpected encounter with a task force of the Turkish Navy on exercise. It was a delightful experience - on board were members of the press from Italy, Monaco, the UK, Argentina and Hong Kong, and it is safe to say that a good time was had by all. There hardly seemed to be a break between mealtimes and the cuisine was nothing short of superb. Turkish rosé is exquisite; do they keep all the 'good stuff' at home in Turkey? We suspect so. An all-too-brief 'run ashore' at Marmaris before the last night on board just made a return visit all the more inevitable.

Organisers of the 5th TYBA Yacht Charter Show to be a proper success. Günes Aysun, TYBA President, was happy to note "increased interest from both local and international charter agents, and press. We could probably make the show even bigger - up to 60 yachts attending - but that may be more of a dilution than a benefit. For 2025 we anticipate 'more of the same', but better, and look forward to welcoming everyone once again next year."

TYBA Vice President and Charter Show Chairman Serhan Cengiz was equally happy with the running of the 2024 event. "The show has been a great success: we have expanded exhibitor numbers, attracted more overseas brokers, and increased media involvement. The diversity of yachts on display was greater than last year - and it was noted by many. The TYBA Charter Show is proud to be an active promoter of Turkish marine tourism. I would like to thank the members of the TYBA Charter Show Committee for their immense amount of hard work, and unflagging support for an event that has now become one of the most important shows in the Mediterranean."

As outside observers, and observers from a distance, Asia Yacht Press and Sail-World Asia can only reiterate what we have said before. Turkey is a truly wonderful place to visit for a charter holiday. The hospitality and cuisine are second to none, the boating facilities (from Turkish gulets to name-brand superyachts) are presented as perfect, the culture and history of the country are amazing, and the coastal landscape is sensational. Given half a chance, we'll be back, and for much, much longer!

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