TOURISM MAGNET

Turkey 2020 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Mercan Tourism is targeting new markets and segments to capitalize on the opportunities created by Istanbul's new mega-airport.

BIOGRAPHY

Mehmet Mengü serves as Managing Partner at Mercan Tourism. He has been working in the tourism industry since 2009, and during this period he has earned prestigious international awards. He holds a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering from Istanbul Yeditepe University. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in tourism management at Istanbul University.

How will the new Istanbul Airport improve Turkey's tourism industry?
The new Istanbul Airport will soon have an annual capacity of 150 million passengers, making it the largest airport in the world. It was built on 80,000ha, which is seven times larger than Atatürk International Airport. Turkish tourism has lately made a rapid recovery. By the end of 2019, Turkey expects to receive 48 million tourists. Our expectation in the near future is 70-80 million tourists. During peak seasons many groups travel on charter flights, constraining the runway and disturbing the entire operation. The new airport's size and capacity fits perfectly into this equation.

How does Mercan formulate its strategy around evolving consumer habits?
We closely track the buying behaviors of Middle Eastern markets, which represent the majority of our customer base. People from Middle Eastern countries tend to buy our tour packages, even on a last-minute basis. With this in mind, we take care of block-booking on flights, special room agreements, guides, and all other relevant ground services, then wait and sell most of our packages close to the deadline. This is called mass tourism, and we have been engaged in this for the last 10 years. 60-70% of our revenue is generated from this segment.

Which region represents your primary market and where are you planning to expand?
Around 90-95% of our business comes from the GCC, the Middle East, and North Africa. The growth in our current markets is good, and we monitor arrivals from these countries on a monthly basis. These markets are growing by 15-20% annually, and we are expecting even higher growth with the new Istanbul Airport. Our target is to add new markets to our operations, particularly Asian markets. To that end, we are closely looking at China, India, and Pakistan because tourist numbers from these countries have witnessed a major boom. While people from these countries do not have the same buying habits and language as the Middle East, the concept of tourism is similar and we know how to please them.

What is your strategy for entering a new market?
First, we study the market in terms of what products and cities it prefers, the languages they speak, and all of their quality requirements. To get to know the new market, we do all the necessary research, starting with the resources provided by Turkey's Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Thereafter, we attend tourism fairs and exhibitions in the target market and form a specific marketing strategy to penetrate the market.

How does Mercan position Turkey against competing tourism destinations?
In 2014-2015, prices in Turkey declined by 50-60%, which squeezed the industry but also created new opportunities. As a result, tourists going to resort destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, and Cyprus started considering Turkey. For example, we often check the rates in Sharm El Sheikh when we do comparison for Middle Eastern tourists interested in Antalya.
Are you keen to expand into the MICE segment?
The majority of our guests are leisure tourists; however, we do have some business travelers from the Middle East. During the last five years, we have arranged several MICE organizations. At present, we are managing a number of new MICE requests. We have an efficient and professional MICE team capable of handling all operations. In 2018, our MICE department marked a notable improvement, and we are even more optimistic about 2019.

What is Mercan Tourism's online strategy?
In 2014, we became a destination management company (DMC) that can handle all travel arrangements, offline and online. We shaped our strategy and three years ago created a booking platform to serve our clients via the Mercan online system. In terms of back office processes, we are leveraging software to improve our service quality and optimize costs. Our in-house IT department oversees these improvements and manages IT-related projects.