Hotels tackle economy .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - While most hotels in Istanbul are suffering much lower occupancy rates compared to this time last year, many owners remain hopeful that business will pick up considerably in spring, when Istanbul is host to a number of major conferences.

Müberra Eresin, the director of Eresin Hotels and a member of the executive committee of Tourist Hotels and Investors Association, or TUROB, said the current average occupancy rate in Istanbul hotels was estimated as slightly below 40 percent.

"Most hotels have an occupancy rate 20 percent below what they had last year. However, once spring comes and people start traveling more, Istanbul hotels will have a considerable advantage vis-é-vis their counterparts in Europe. In part thanks to marketing efforts of the last few years and also because of its comparative affordability, traveling to Istanbul is an emerging trend in tourism."

Depending on conferences
Eresin also said Istanbul hotels had cause to be hopeful in upcoming months. "First, there is the fact that Istanbul is the preferred vacation spot for many in the Arab world, especially with the recent popularity of a Turkish TV series there. Second, starting in March, Istanbul is hosting major conferences that will bring many professionals to Istanbul," she said.

The most notable of these conferences is the 5th World Water Forum, which will be held from March 16 to 22. The conference is the main water-related event in the world, aiming to create international political discussion about water and its importance.

The sales and marketing director of Taxim Hill Hotel, Nüket Aksoy, said that large groups have already been booking rooms at the hotel for the World Water Forum and even for conferences that will take place in the summer, such as the Global Conference on Global Warming, scheduled for July.

"It is a particularly quiet time now, right after Christmas and New Year’s Eve when people did travel. But we are still doing OK as we had taken the precaution of designing attractive promotion packages and advertising them internationally," she said. "And we are hopeful for the spring and summer, when we will have big events in the city."

Nuri Kalyoncu, the owner of the four-star Nippon Hotel in Talimhane, near Taksim, said they did not have much to worry about because even now, during low season, they had an occupancy rate of 55 percent and have every reason to expect a serious increase in the spring. "Many doctors have already booked their rooms for the Public Health Conference in April," he said. Hotels in Taksim profit

Hotel business that comes from major conferences usually goes entirely to the hotels in the Taksim area. Gökhan Saraçoğlu, director of sales at the boutique hotel Sultanahmet Sarayı (Sultanahmet Palace) jokes that Sultanahmet hotels rarely get "Taksim's leftovers" during major conferences. "But most of our customers are here for leisure and many of our rooms have already been reserved for the spring, so we are not too worried. Despite the financial crisis, we have reached the occupancy rates of last winter, so even now, business really is not that bad at all," he said.

However, hotels that are not so centrally located have been hit hard. Atilla Üstündağ, Vice President of the Executive Council of the Green Park Hotel Chain, explained that while their hotel in Taksim was weathering the crisis, their hotel in Bostancı, a fairly residential district in the Anatolian side, was really suffering.