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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua & Chief Marketing Officer, SITE

Bodrum used to be called Halicarnassus, was the birthplace of Herodotus, the father of History and was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. I learned this from classical scholar and teacher, Pádraic O’Sullivan, under an azure sky in south Dublin, 2 nights before we departed for the Turkish resort. By the time we left Dublin the azure blue sky was charcoal grey but we found it again, a few hours later, more resolute and intense the ever, in sun-drenched Turkey.

This is the opening paragraph of a blog from August 2013, almost 5 years ago. I was reminded of it over the past week by my friend and SITE colleague Eda Ozden who asked if she could re-post it on her company blog. When I asked about recent additions to the Business Events & Incentive Travel infrastructure in the greater Bodrum region she listed the following: Six Senses, Kaplankaya, Lux, Bodrum, Edition, Bodrum with Hyatt, Four Seasons and Banyan Tree are all due to open over the next couple of years. That’s massive high end investment by any standards, underlining robust market confidence in the destination. With increased access direct and such extraordinary choice of incentive-quality accommodation Bodrum deserves to be on all lists of hot destinations in Europe.

Bodrum for Business Events

Bodrum FriendsIn Bodrum we were guests of Birgul and Tomruk Ozden, old friends and owners of MEP Destination Management. The superlatives you might use to describe their extraordinary contemporary summer home would only be outdone by how you might describe the scintillating generosity of their wonderful hospitality. Thus our days in Bodrum were lived with insiders’ eyes, experienced through the iridescent prism of privileged local knowledge and expertise.

The Bodrum peninsula sits at about 5 o’clock, in the south west of the Aegean Sea facing a constellation of islands, some Turkish, some Greek. Its jagged perimeter hides a thousand inlets, bays and natural harbours that provide access to the beautiful turquoise waters that define this part of the world. Naturally this hasn’t gone unnoticed and much of the peninsula’s coast has now been privatised by developers of condominiums and resorts.

Much of the north coast, however, retains a more unspoilt profile remaining more resolutely local although Mandarin Oriental, no less, has been signed up by the owners, Astas Holdings, to manage a hideaway luxury resort on over 60 hectares about 10 mins from Birgul’s and Tomruk’s home on Paradise Bay. With over 100 guest rooms and suites, 214 luxury condos and a 2700 sqm spa, the facility will bring extensive employment – and traffic – to this part of the peninsula. The Fairmont/SwissHotel/Raffles axis has also invested heavily in Bodrum with 2 new facilities opening there in 2014 and 2016.

The Marmara Hotel, Bodrum

Bodrum Museum (11)Tomruk took us for cocktails at The Marmara Hotel, a beautiful boutique property that clings onto the hillside surrounding the harbour city. We sipped champagne cocktails at the terrace bar there and, high above the city, marvelled at the intense lucidity of the scene below, the stark whiteness of the houses, the steely blue of the sea. The setting is immensely beautiful and you can understand why this city once contained such a monument to grief as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Today only ancient images survive of this wonder of the ancient world but Bodrum does possess a well restored mediaeval fort, now housing Europe’s only museum of underwater archaelogy, displaying salvage items from 2 millennia of shipwrecks in the eastern Mediterranean. In an era where visitor attractions vie with each other in digital interactivity and high tech, this museum is decidedly analogue and low tech but no less fascinating. The curator will even host you to tea and snacks in the English Tower.

Best Fish Ever

Bodrum MiamWe ate the best fish ever at Miam, a year round restaurant in Turkbuku, one of the small villages scattered along the peninsula’s Northern coast. We selected our starters and sea bass and then repaired to our table, set waterside atop a floating platform. The village of Turkbuku extended before us following the swerve of the shoreline, the patterns of light mutating from sunlight to twilight to moonlight as our wonderful evening evolved. Our animated conversation was punctuated by the constant lap of the waters and the worst euro pop/arabesk I think I’ve ever heard – an occupational hazard in Turkey according to Nobel prize-winner, Orhan Pamuk. After dinner we strolled the length of the shore and discovered why this village is sometimes called the San Tropez of Turkey- initially Turkbuku has an easy, traditional simplicity but, half way down the shoreline, once you cross the footbridge, it assumes an air of pretentious sophistication as the Istanbul clubs, bars and fusion restaurants lay claim to the precious real estate.

Palmarina, Bodrum

Bodrum YachtIn Yalikavak, another village on the north coast, Azerbaijani billionaire Mubariz Mansimov has developed the spectacular Palmarina with over 700 berths and extensive supporting infrastructure including restaurants, shops, an exclusive niteclub etc. Its ambition, scope and vision places Palmarina firmly alongside such marinas as Peurto Banus, Portofino and Porto Cervo while the cruising options in the Aegean are simply breathtaking. Blessed or cursed – I don’t know which – with a brain the insists on retrieving, from a seemingly infinite database, all manner of songs and tunes to accompany key life experiences I was caught somewhere between The Beach Boys, Christopher Cross, Rod Stewart and, most sadly of all, Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre as we rushed the waves at full sail aboard Tomruk’s yacht. We then spent a perfect day anchored at nearby Gokcebel, with Mansimov’s uber-luxury PalmaLife resort and beach club visible on the horizon.

Bodrum – a true incentive-quality destination

Bodrum offers the full gamut of experiences that categorises a destination as truly motivational. There’s unequalled history and heritage there stretching back through the millennia, world class resorts and restaurants, easy access direct from Bodrum International Airport or via Istanbul and an awesome natural setting of azure skies and turquoise waters that imprints itself in the recesses of your mind and calls you back there from the gloomy greyness of Northern climes.

Pádraic Gilligan, Pat Delaney & Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, venues, hotels and agencies on strategy, marketing and training for the Business Events sector. MEP Destination Management offers DMC services all over Turkey and can be contacted via Eda Ozden here  


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