Praised for its natural and largely undiscovered cruising grounds, Turkey has suffered a decline in business this season as a charter destination due to the country’s perceived nearby location to the continuing political unrest in the Middle East. Combine this with a lingering reputation for low quality gullets and service standards, some brokers and clients prefer to steer clear of the destination all together.

“With Turkey being located where it is geographically, we have problems with the neighbouring countries,” explains Cem Boz, managing director at Contact Turkey Yachting.  “Any bad news from the Middle East that comes up in the media makes it difficult when selling charters here, even though the conflict is over a thousand miles away. When I talk to my brokers and they mention ‘border problems’, I tell them that this is not the Turkey that borders with Syria, it is the Turkey that borders with Greece.”

Marmaris, Turkey

Boz continues to explain that the Turkish charter market has been gradually building momentum over the past decade and has become a viable alternative to the popular destinations. “The Turkish charter market is a small piece of the puzzle and cannot be compared with the market in the western Mediterranean,” he adds. “But boat building in Turkey has made some big jumps in the last ten years and, with it getting better, Turkish charter boats are also getting better.”

Charter broker Ann Casebourne of Yacht Connections is a strong supporter of the Turkish gullet charter experience, and believes that the perception from the wider industry needs to change. “Quality has increased quite slowly in some respects, but there have been leaps in the last five years,” she explains. “The owners have gone to some of the other boats shows and seen the standards that they are competing against.

“I don’t think many people appreciate how good it is now. They live in the past in the days of the inexpensive gullets that used to work with the budget holiday companies. I can only speak for Europeans but I think it has been an uphill struggle to get over the low-class reputation they have had.”

"It is a very economical way of chartering and gullets particularly are very well suited to the cruising in Turkey as they have large deck space and their styling fits in with the dramatic scenery."

For Sarah Sebastian, charter broker at Nicholson Yachts, Turkish charters are a good-value alternative to charters elsewhere in the Mediterranean, due to low costing, minimal VAT and berthing fees, but convincing clients of these benefits is the biggest challenge. “It is a very economical way of chartering and gullets particularly are very well suited to the cruising in Turkey as they have large deck space and their styling fits in with the dramatic scenery,” she says. “But the perception is that we are next to Syria and it is very hard to convince clients to come here.”

“For me the best sales tool is my clients who have been here and experienced an authentic Turkish charter as they go back and tell their friends,” adds Beverly Parsons, charter broker at Interpac Yachts. “It also helps now that Turkey has built up a big superyacht building industry. A lot of the boats you see in Genoa are built in Turkey now so the industry is getting feel of it more and I would say there is an interchange to charter.”

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