Galataport to open in April as hopes grow for Turkish tourism

Galataport, the $1.7 billion new cruise ship port and mixed–use complex under development at the mouth of the Bosphorous is expected to be up and running by the end of next month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week, as Turkey pins its hopes on a UK-led revival of its tourist industry.

Galataport’s 1.2 km coastline has been closed to the public for more than 200 years and its redevelopment will restore it to its place as the “jewel of Istanbul” said Serdar Bilgili, the chairman of Bilgili Holding which, in partnership with Dou Holding won the contract to mangage the complex’s development and then to operate the port for the next 30 years. The port was designed to have the capacity to process 1.5 million visitors each year and was originally expected to galvanise cruise ship tourism activity from the Mediterranean up to the Black Sea. The masterplan for Galataport also includes a total of 52,000 square meters of leasable area for shops and restaurants and another 43,000 square meters for offices, as well as a 177-room hotel.

Just how close it comes to those pre-COVID expectations remains to be seen, The cruise industry’s – and therefore Galataport’s fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the aviation sector, and to the movement of not just passengers but also the crews and supplies as well. Accenture’s September 2020 Defining the Future of Travel report forecast an initial drop of between 60% and 80%, with the cruise industry very much on the front line.

Although Turkey’s overall tourist industry contracted by 4.3% last year, it is now pinning its hopes on a boom in demand from the UK for vacations in traditionally popular holiday resorts such as Marmaris, Kalkan, Fethiye, and Ölüdeniz. Tour operators are not expecting bookings to come anywhere near previous levels until at least July. But Erdogan remains bullish, “Galataport is a worldwide project with the potential of drawing 25 million visitors, 7 million tourists, and 1.5 million cruise passengers,” he said last month, claiming that 200 cruise ships carrying 350,000 passengers had made reservations to anchor at Galataport this year. “I already believe that this interest will rise fivefold next year,” Erdogan added.