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Interview: Ayça Olcaytu İşçen
August 2004

“Turkey’s best boutique hotels are in Cappadocia”

Ömer Tosun, who has been working in the tourism sector over 30 years, is an admirer of Cappadocia. Ömer Tosun, who began his career in tourism by making tea in a buffet in Hotel Sinasos, worked as bellboy, waiter, and carpet seller. He is now the owner of the Museum Hotel. Tosun, who has served in the banking sector for 12 years, gave a briefing in 1985 while he was a cashier at Emlak Bank. He was so far-sighted and said: “Credit cards are the future of Turkey.” Tosun is the founding partner of the boutique hotel called “Ottoman House” and the owner of the Indigo Carpet-Seller, Matiana Travel and Cafedocia. He was also the founder of the Cappadocia Balloon, but later he transferred it to another people, who are still the owners. The precious thing for him is now the Museum Hotel in Uçhisar. His first target is to enlarge this boutique hotel, which views the whole Cappadocia from above. Ömer Tosun says: “There is a lot to do, but my life is not that long”. We had a lengthy and joyful conversation in Museum Hotel’s garden with Ömer Tosun, who continuously produces projects.

Cappadocia: What is boutique hotel? What is its distinctive characteristic, which distinguishes it from others?
Ömer Tosun: First of all, a boutique hotel should bear the natural, cultural and social features
of the region, where it is located. High-quality clean service is essential. The cuisine, which is prepared by those living in the region, should be served in the best way. I believe that there should be minimum 10 and maximum 35 rooms. When it is evaluated from the standpoint of the equipment in the rooms, it is at the level of four or five-star hotel rooms. People who desire to experience the regional culture go to boutique hotels. Boutique hotels in Cappadocia should be in this type. Museum Hotel is bigger than a boutique hotel and is a special one with the Ministry certificate. The number of our rooms will rise to 40. Out of them, 30 will be suite. There is no company here, which can serve for 24 hours a day, 12 months a year and has art galleries, conference halls and restaurants for high-level people. In this region, boutique hotels are mostly viewed as small boarding houses. Actually, it is right.

Cappadocia: We noticed that the understanding of accommodation in Cappadocia is channeling towards the boutique hotels. What do you think about its reasons?
Ö.Tosun: There are a lot of ancient buildings, which should be revived, in Cappadocia. Therefore, it is very natural that the boutique hotels are becoming regular in this region. There are many good boutique hotels, which render high-quality services in line with those throughout the world. It is not the issue of money; it is the matter of understanding. Actually, the people who invest in these hotels should have a certain background. Cappadocia is the region where the best boutique hotels of Turkey are located.
Cappadocia: How is the development of boutique hotels in the world? Are there any unions established regarding boutique hotels in the world?
Ö.Tosun: We may say that boutique hotels are widespread in the world. As far as I know,
There are associations, which convene boutique hotels under one umbrella.
Cappadocia: Do you have an aim to realize such an organization in Turkey?
Ö.Tosun: I think that it a little bit early, but it should be realized.
Cappadocia: Do you think that the promotion of boutique hotels is sufficiently made in Turkey?
Ö.Tosun: There are articles, magazines and organizations concerning boutique hotels in the world. In Turkey, there is no a guide book which covers only the boutique hotels. Boutique hotels are mentioned in a limited way in various books about hotels. First of all, a publication is needed to accurately promote boutique hotels. This publication should be high quality and be accurately marketed.
Cappadocia: We would like to talk about Cappadocia a little bit. Do you believe that Cappadocia’s promotion is sufficient?
Ö.Tosun: There are books published by the Tourism Ministry regarding Cappadocia, however there is no brochure. We cannot find any in tourism bureaus. We discussed this issue with the Minister of Tourism. For example, there was no brochure concerning Cappadocia at the London Fair. There were no brochures or posters at the stands of the Ministry or Hilton Hotel, where we accommodated. There is only one Cappadocia in the world. Therefore, more importance should be attached to this region and the State should encourage everyone for the promotion of this region.

“Special projects peculiar to Cappadocia should be produced”

Cappadocia: When you consider the whole region, what do you think about the initiatives that should be made to safeguard its natural structure?
Ö.Tosun: Initially, we should get rid of the uniform system. The State should be more careful in the construction of the buildings. For example, the location of the municipality building and the school in the center of Göreme is not right. The State should also comply with the architectural style here. We are taking into consideration every detail while we are investing in this region. The State should also take pains. There are ware stores in the form of barracks, tents set up near the Chimney Rocks. They should be re-arranged. The State establishes cooperatives, hospitals etc. All of these projects are uniform. I regard the implementation of the projects in other touristic regions just in the same way in Cappadocia as a dangerous one. The projects should be carried out in line with the structure of Cappadocia and people who are capable of creating such projects should be encouraged.
Cappadocia: What is your assessment about the Kayakapı project launched by the Ürgüp Municipality?
Ö.Tosun: I do not view renting of the houses in the Kayakapı region by the Ürgüp Municipality to Magic Life Company for 49 years as an accurate decision. I am opposed to this kind of tourism. Because, the marketing methods of large firms are very different. Magic Life will privatize the region for itself and will establish many companies such as warehouses, restaurants and cafes there. It will almost create a little city inside Ürgüp. Money spent there is not to go outside, therefore all institutions in this region will be adversely affected. It will damage tourism in the region. Actually, this investment should be provided for 10 different Turkish firms. Thus, the investment will have been completed earlier and various types of companies will have been founded.

“Touristic flights should be ensured”

Cappadocia: What can be done for tourists to accommodate for a long time and want to visit every corner of the region?
Ö.Tosun: First of all, touristic flights should be ensured. For a person to come from Bodrum to Cappadocia by plane, he/she should first go to Istanbul and then arrive in an airport near Cappadocia. One day is lost. The State is spending trillions of TL for the construction of airports. For example, why is Nevşehir Airport not used for touristic flights? Flights interconnected with Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Bodrum, Cappadocia, Van, Trabzon and Şanlıurfa are needed for tourists. Little airplanes will be sufficient like those in the world. They will carry passengers among the cities. If this is provided, the number of tourists visiting Cappadocia will increase by two-fold. Then, our friends will not sell their hotels under their value and naturally, the quality and the prices will increase. A tourist who comes from a seaside to Cappadocia should have a travel of 14 hours. This problem should be solved. We had conveyed this problem to many tourism ministers including Mr. Erkan Mumcu, however we did not achieve any results. The Ministry says: “You set up your airplane company, we will support you”. However, we are not the only one who needs this, Turkey needs this.
We also talked with the officials from the airline companies, but they say that the taxes for airports are very high. The State should reduce these taxes and make necessary incentives.
Furthermore, congress tourism should also be given priority. It is especially essential for the revival of the four or five-star hotels. The four or five-star hotels are booking their rooms for tourists at the price of boarding houses. Therefore, the quality level is decreasing. Cappadocia should become a center of congresses, conferences and seminars. A conference hall has been previously set up in Ürgüp. It is an appropriate investment, but the project should be supported in many ways. It should be marketed. These hotels are actually national assets and they are constructed by spending millions of dollars.
Cappadocia: In other regions of Turkey, in Kuşadası and Pamukkale, similar agreements are made and common price is approved. Can this example be applied also in Cappadocia?
Ö.Tosun: They established a company in Pamukkale, preliminary meetings were also held to establish a company also here and an agreement was reached. It is said that prices will be determined, customers will be distributed to the hotels and quality will be achieved, however it could not have been implemented. KAPTİD (Cappadocian Enterprises Association) should also exert efforts and put forth the rules to this end.

“Cappadocia National Park should be like its examples in the world”

Cappadocia: Have you ever thought about the establishment of a non-governmental organization since you are one of those who are aware of the importance of the tourism sector? Do you have an idea of establishing a non-governmental organization with this point of view?
Ö.Tosun: I am already a member of KAPTİD. Once, I was also its Chairman. In addition, we wanted to form an association in the region. Actually, our friends will revive an association, which has been previously set up. It is easier than setting up a new one. There is a lot of work to be done in the region. For example, Cappadocia is a national park. National parks in the world are not visited this way. National parks have one entry and one exit, and they are protected by the security officials. Their flora is carefully observed.
Another implementation which can be made in Cappadocia is the quick revival of the pigeon-houses in our valleys. Officials from a French TV channel have come to the region and made a documentary about the pigeons. I don’t know which channel it was, but no Turkish TV channel made such a documentary. Pigeon-house is a culture here. I remember when I was a child, I was not able to hear any voice other than those of pigeons in these valleys. One of the most important factors, which enable Chimney Rocks to survive is the pigeons. Mosses, which cover the Chimney Rocks, are fed with the fertilizer of the pigeons. The existence of the fertilizers makes the Chimney Rocks stronger.
Cappadocia: The paintings and decorations in these pigeon-houses are rare examples of the art of public painting dating back to previous periods. Pigeon has a special place in the Turkish culture and has an importance from the religious standpoint. When all these issues are considered, pigeon-houses really gain significance.
Ö.Tosun: Yes, it is absolutely right. At 5.00 a.m., I usually walk in the valleys. There are unique birds here. I tried to take photos of them but I couldn’t achieve. I went to the provincial directorate of the Ministry of the Environment and Forest to talk about this issue. Officials told me that hunting is prohibited in the region. I was pleased with this decision, but there is no official to follow this issue in our national park. The natural life should be protected. Studies should be carried out here like those in other national parks throughout
the world.
Cappadocia: There are efforts to form golf courses in the region. What is your assessment about this issue?
Ö.Tosun: We heard that there are two firms working on this issue in the region; I believe that it is a huge and good investment. Cappadocia needs this. This investment is worth of $30 million and covers an area of 900,000 square meters. Because golf-lovers want to play in various places. They prefer the region between Çavuşin and Ürgüp, but I think that it is not convenient. It is a flat area however its surrounding may be full of buildings in the near future. It can be built in another region of Avanos or in Mustafapaşa. Mustafapaşa is an appropriate place for golf.
Cappadocia: What are your future plans?
Ö. Tosun: First of all, I am against the understanding of tourism, which is carried out in line with the models in cities or towns. Cappadocia is a whole, you cannot divide it. Officials from the Municipality of Cappadocia can work together. Certain activities should be held for the region for example nightclubs, restaurants, movie halls, cultural centers can be set up. Boarding houses can be supported in Göreme. There are very nice boutique hotels and restaurants in Uçhisar; they may become widespread. Avanos can become a center of activities. Tours with canoe and jet engines can be organized over Kızılırmak river. Prawn farms cane be founded in Avanos, wine can be served to tourists in the wine houses built near the forests. Our valleys are wonderful when there is a full moon in the sky. But in certain days, the valleys should be illustrated. With the lamps to be put on the rocks, artistic and attractive arrangements can be made without spending much money. People can walk in the nightfall and watch the scene. Concerts can be staged. I saw in many places throughout the world. For example in Singapore. It is an island, and there is nothing worth of seeing there. However, the people set up mountains, waterfalls, vineyards and they illuminate these places where a lot of people visit. A total of 10 million tourists visit this island every year. This can be done also here.

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