TBY talks to İsmet Ömer Öztanık, Vice-President at Lucis Global, on the hospitality sector and new hotels in Istanbul.

İsmet Ömer Öztanık
İsmet Ömer Öztanık was born in 1985 in Istanbul and went on to study International Relations at Koç University and got his Bachelor’s degree in 2006. He subsequently joined the MBA program at Cass Business School in London. Since 2003, Öztanık has been a shareholder and the Vice-President of Özmetal where he is mainly responsible for the expansion of the product range of the company. In addition to that, he has been one of the shareholders and the Vice-President of Lucis Global since April 2012.

How did you become involved in the hospitality industry?

We started to invest in tourism in 1991 with an 80-room, four-star hotel in the center of Taksim. At that time, there were three hotels in the area. However, we were faced with security issues such as drug dealers in what was akin to a red-light district. From 1991 to 2007, we were able to build six other hotels in the Taksim area, operating seven hotels and offering almost 1,000 rooms. Over the same period, we also bought two pieces of land in Bodrum and established two other hotels, which are all-inclusive holiday clubs. In 2008, we bought the building that is now Avantgarde Hotel. It took one-and-a-half years to construct the hotel, which was opened in May 2010. Before Avantgarde, our strategy in tourism was to invest in four-star category hotels. Now, we have set up a new company, Lucis Global, which established a 124-room hotel in the Taksim area and it will also be an Avantgarde Hotel; we are now refurbishing that space. In addition, the company opened a new hotel in Bodrum called Mejor Costa. We now have two different pieces of land on which to develop hotels, with other ideas such as offices, residences, and a mixed-use project in mind. One is in Nişantaşi on Rumeli Street, and our main plan is to build a 200-room, five-star hotel there because it is a prime piece of real estate for the hospitality market in Istanbul.

How would you characterize Avantgarde's role in the local hospitality market?

The location of Avantgarde is unbelievable. On the same road, Büyükdere Street, we compete with respected international brands: Sheraton, Mövenpick, Le Meridian, the Conrad, the EDITION, and Renaissance. Relatively speaking, operating a hotel in the Levent area is not as easy as operating one in Taksim, as it has its own standard flat occupancy rate and a local rate. At a minimum, hotels in Taksim enjoy 75%-80% occupancy annually for about €90/night on average.

The customer portfolio is much more demanding in Levent; our guests know why they choose this location and there is a reason behind their choice. They do not want to stay at a random hotel selected from a huge pool. In fact, 25% of our reservations are made online—bearing in mind how sensitive online consumers are, our presentation is key. Other clients are mainly corporate.

What advantages does Avantgarde have in the highly competitive hotel market?

Since day one, we have worked to differentiate our hotel by creating more customized approaches. In a typical city or business hotel, the size of a room is approximately 16 to 18 sqm, but here the minimum is 28-30 sqm. Our room sizes go up to as high as 70 sqm. In addition, we offer every amenity to our guests, unlike at some hotels where you have to be a preferred guest with a rewards card to get the full package: bathrobes, slippers, and welcome gifts. We offer these services as part of our daily routine. For our preferred guests, we include chocolates, wine, fruit, and champagne. We are aiming to draw the attention of our guests; as long as they are loyal, we will continue to be very generous. In Istanbul, the successful examples of hotels are those that understand affordable luxury.

How does Avantgarde Hotel assure that guests enjoy their stay?

Having 84 hotel rooms allows us to treat our customers on a one-on-one basis. We work to ensure that all of their requests are attended to quickly and adequately. Comparing the hotel with its competitors, some have 150 or 300 rooms; it is not easy for these large hotels to treat customers as personally as we do. We are constantly working to show our guests and customers that the hotel is more like a living space.