The siren call


“Honey or jam? “

Every morning the young, newly trained rookie waiter would ask in broken English.

The young couple replied with a laugh, “Honey please!” The waiter and the couple were Turkish, but they repeated this breakfast ritual throughout the week, as if they were rehearsing a piece to be put on in English.

It was a frequently repeated anecdote from my parents about their honeymoon in 1955 at the newly opened Hilton Istanbul. My father, who had just graduated from Stanford, was taking a year’s salary up front as a young engineer, so he could afford the extravagance and give my mother a piece of the American dream. The hotel was the very first Hilton built outside of the United States and billed itself as an iconic manifesto of modernity. Soon after, many more followed in cities like Cairo, Athens, Jerusalem, Panama, etc. They were all surprisingly similar, mostly rising with a ‘now retro’ flair as bold modern architectural elements. They were all symbols of Little America, ushering in the American lifestyle. Turkey has also adopted the model. State-funded hotels such as Büyük Tarabya, Izmir Efes, Büyük Ankara, and Bursa Çelik Palas were opened one after another in the 1960s, all surprisingly similar.

At that time, the priority for the American tourist was to find comfort and the American lifestyle wherever he went. In the advertisements, it was guaranteed that they would find the same towel and the same food in each place. This is how tastes such as burgers and strawberry milkshakes entered our lives. My mom tasted ketchup for the first time on that dreamy honeymoon, spread it on bread, and savored it, like it was a great invention. Maybe it’s because of my parents’ initiation into married life, but also because of my father’s quest to explore the best hotels, my first hotel experiences started with Hilton hotels and continued. with everyone else. Needless to say, my very first burger and milkshake was by the pool at Istanbul Bosphorus branch.

For many decades, the key to the success of tourism almost always rested on the guarantee of standardization. In Turkey, after this first era of large modern city hotels, came the seaside resorts offering everything in excess. For many years Turkey has welcomed mass tourism with the ‘all inclusive’ system, eventually becoming a destination of choice, but this phenomenon has come at a cost. The amenities quickly deteriorated, even the decorating trends became obsolete, moreover, local people and small businesses could not get enough share of this type of tourism. In recent years there has been a shift to the opposite. Customer expectations are now focused on diversity instead of seeking standardization.

The definition of luxury is changing. The concept of luxury destinations in the world has changed for a long time. Luxury doesn’t have to be pompous and glittery, on the contrary simplicity with exquisite enthusiasm and design is key to most high-end properties. It is not about seeing and being seen, on the contrary isolation and privacy are preferred. Exclusive has become synonymous with the concept of luxury. It is also more of a locality-driven experience. The luxury traveler wants to discover new flavors, feel nature, learn more about local cultures and also share the responsibility of maintaining their existence and taking care of the environment. Standardization, similarity and similarity are simply out!

Today, even within the same hotel group, brands differentiate themselves and position themselves on diversity. Interestingly, the Hilton Group, once the leading chain promoting sameness, is now taking the initiative to create the different and the exclusive. Recently, I had the chance to meet Feisal Jaffer, the Global Brand Manager for LXR Hotels & Resorts under the Hilton Hotels umbrella. The brand, founded in 2018, is rather new, it has just launched a series of high-end luxury hotels one after the other across the world. Jaffer was here in Turkey to visit the Bodrum Susona LXR Hotel, one of the brand’s first. Jaffer attaches particular importance to investments in Turkey and sees the difference here mainly in gastronomy and hospitality. The entry of the LXR brand in Turkey is a positive sign for Bodrum, which is playing in the high-level international tourism segment. Jaffer hopes to launch new locations in Turkey, helping to reposition Turkey’s status among luxury destinations. Susona takes its name from the legendary mermaid from Turkish mythology who seduces sailors with her beautiful voice. The sirens have started blowing in Bodrum, we hope the sound of the siren will attract quality tourism. Susona is a unique legendary mythical creature. After all, the new motto is uniqueness!

Fork and cap of the week:

Tasting local flavors and local products is a priority in today’s gastronomy. Susona hosts two locally branded restaurants Malva and Frankie Beach Club, created by restaurateur Kaya Demirer, who is also the F&B consultant for the property. Demirer, also the head of the Turkish Restaurant and Entertainment Association (TURYID), places the highest importance on promoting local values, supporting regional products and environmental sensitivity. True to the hotel’s philosophy, they promote the use of lionfish in restaurants. The lionfish is an invasive fish that comes from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and reaches our seas. It destroys all native fish species, and the only way to stop that is to use it more and more, and that’s exactly what Malva and Frankie are doing. In fact, the lionfish ceviche seems to be even better than the bass version.

The supply of materials from local producers and the promotion of geographical indication products are among the other priorities of the restaurants. In search of unique tastes, sommelier Selçuk Dönmezer makes discoveries in the region’s vineyards and follows the evolution of the grapes from day to day. They try to support the small local vineyards and promote the native grapes of Turkey. The bottles poured into the venue include the elusive Bornova Misketi grape, the ancestor of all Muscadet grapes. Another bottle, the Narince and Emir grape blend is just the white we need in the summer, cool and chilled in every way. The famous Bodrum tangerine is almost like the brand’s mascot here. At the Frankie Beach Club, they offer plates to share as a family lunch to minimize waste, and create conviviality around the table.

My parents’ honeymoon spot still remains iconic, this time as a part of modern architectural heritage after nearly 66 years. Hopefully, with the renovation, the retro ‘Mad Men’ style will make a comeback, making the property unique in its design. Rumor has it that Demirer is also the F&B consultant for the Bosphorus property. I’m pretty sure there will be a uniqueness to revisit the sameness.



About Ariella McGuire

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