Undoubtedly the leading region of Turkish tourism today is the Mediterranean province of Antalya. In the past, almost half a century ago, when tourism was taking off in small steps, it was more of a historical cultural tour of the whole country.
Usually the kick-off would be from Istanbul, a night or two at the new Hilton Hotel, a hotspot for modern American-style living, a quick tour of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Blue Mosque, maybe a boat ride on the Bosphorus, then a hasty blast exploring Cappadocia.
It used to be that you didn’t fly to the land of fairy chimneys, but you did the whole trip by tourist bus, and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara would be an interesting insight into the history of Anatolia, giving meaning at the uninteresting stop. -more in the capital Ankara.
After the breathtaking tour of the alien landscape of Cappadocia, the tour would drive to Pamukkale Hierapolis, otherwise known as Cotton Castle, another outstanding natural and archaeological walk site. The conclusion would be the site of Ephesus, one would never leave the country without paying the pilgrimage to the Church of St. Mary. The big history-focused cultural tour was over, and now, if there’s time left, the weary tourist could take a dip in the blue waters of the Aegean before landing on the cruise ship, or skip this altogether. part. Back then, Turkey was a destination of archeology and history, the hotels were pretty shabby and the standard tourist food, so edible.
Then came the era of the sacred trio: Sun, sea and sand. Suddenly there was a change of destinations. Initially, the seaside resorts were few. The mythical places of Club Med were only a handful, and open to a privileged few.
The inhabitants were destined for summer camps of various institutions, or tried to invest in low-cost summer houses, grouped in construction sites near a beach, usually along the sea coast Aegean.
Large hotels and resorts came into play soon after. With the help of government support, the coast of Antalya has opened up for tourism. At first it was more modest, then it turned into something huge. The magnet to attract mass tourism was the introduction of an all-inclusive system, which turned out to be a double-edged sword. It helped attract the masses, but it was a burden on hotel management and the waste was unimaginable. Then local tourists discovered this all-inclusive paradise phenomenon. Now, summer vacation meant filling plates with all the food you could find at endless buffets, and of course drinking cheap booze to excess. Needless to say the food was mediocre, if edible.
Now, there is a fairly recent upward trend in food tourism. Turkey is a country with a rich culinary culture, with a cornucopia of varied tastes, deeply rooted in the history of a country that has been the cradle of a myriad of civilizations.
But unfortunately, food has never been his main concern. In each term, ministers of tourism and/or culture have said a few words about the importance of gastronomy and their vision of promoting Turkish cuisine, but no serious attempt has been made.
I deliberately mention the Ministry of Tourism and/or Culture here, because the two ministries were once separate, then united, then separated again, and now united.
I know both sides, and in particular the Ministry of Culture, with which I worked in collaboration as an architect of the restoration, and I know from my colleagues that there is an endless tension between the two entities.
The increasingly hideous architecture of increasingly ridiculous themed hotels were extravagant monsters of horror, but they attracted a new portfolio of customers from new target countries such as Russia and former Russian countries. Eventually, new client area centers were formed, the British would prefer Fethiye, Kaş and Kalkan, the Russians would head for Belek and Lara, and the Germans would retire to Alanya.
Maintaining quality was not easy, and of course the food was not quality, but quantity.
Antalya, one of the castles of sea-based tourism in Turkey, is now tackling questions of the future of tourism in its region, and now food is on the table.
The second edition of the F-Summit (Second International Tourism Gastronomy and Hospitality Summit), took place in Antalya, under the direction of Sözen Organization, hosted by the Nirvana Cosmopolitan Hotel.
It has been supported by many important non-governmental organizations as well as institutions such as the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality.
Inundated with visitors, also followed online by thousands, a total of 165 industry professionals participated as speakers on 41 separate panels. The summit also included an exhibition area where leading companies showcased their latest products.
The panelists were made up of a wide range of hotel and restaurant professionals, domestic and foreign investors, F&B managers, gastronomy and tourism professionals, as well as local and international chefs, food writers and columnists. With a large number of participants from the Antalya region, the summit sought ways to make Antalya an important gastronomic destination in the world. Among the many topics discussed were the concept of modern Turkish food culture, the transformation of Anatolian cuisine, future scenarios in the luxury hospitality sector, the future of the ready meals sector in Turkey, innovative buffet concepts in hotel gastronomy in Antalya, the future adaptations of NGOs, what will change in the hotel cultures of tomorrow, the vision of vacations and hospitality of the Z generation, expectations, future trends in gastronomy and the impact of international gastronomy competitions. Finally, the entire tourism sector has focused on food.
Food is a means of communication between the host country and the visitor. Although its food, one can understand and savor a country in a true sense.
Thanks to the F-Summit, food is now on the table and the future of food as a main component of tourism is being discussed by all possible stakeholders.
The title of the summit, which originally takes its name from Gökmen Sözen’s monthly magazine FoodinLife, this time stands for both Food & Future, or Future of Food in the hospitality industry.