CONCERNS: Alanya may protect itself from "over-development," some residents say on the popular coastal district.
A random poll of “new Alanyans” – foreign-born residents of Alanya – and Turkish inhabitants of the town has revealed a myriad of concerns ranging from excessive attention from shop and restaurant staff to over-development. Alanya could offer an even higher standard of living if problems are addressed promptly and decisively, the city's residents say.
Foreign-born residents currently make up approximately 12,000 of the 94,000 inhabitants of central Alanya. Turkey's holiday resorts along the coast of Antalya have welcomed more than 8 million tourists so far this year, according to the Professional Hotel Managers Association of Turkey, or POYD. Alanya received a notable share of this, alongside resorts such as Lara, Side, Kemer, Belek and Olympos.
Irene, 50, who declined to give her surname, came from Ireland to Alanya five years ago. Today she spends most of the year in Alanya, together with her husband who runs a restaurant in town. She said one important problem businesses in Alanya should address is hanutçus, the people who hassle visitors to shop or eat at their establishments. "Shop salesmen are trying to pull people into their shops and this year in particular, customers have been complaining about it," she said.
In the summer of 2007, the Alanya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or ALTSO, launched its “Respect for our Guests” campaign, during which it distributed brochures to local businesses about the importance of allowing tourists to shop without being continuously approached.
Irene said over the few past years, the situation became slightly better. "However, this year the problem has returned. The staff is more abusive these days. I have heard so many people saying that when you try to ignore the salesmen they get irritated and shout 'Hey I’m talking to you,'" she told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. At present, a visitor or resident of the town can report harassment to the zabita, or municipal patrol. "But how will an average tourist know to call the zabita?" Irene said, adding that a growing tendency in local hotels toward the all-inclusive system is contributing to the problem. "Competition between restaurants is getting more fierce as the all inclusive system, which is becoming more common, means fewer customers. People don't eat outside their hotel anymore," she said.
Ali, a local working in the services sector in Alanya who did not want to disclose his identity, said many shopkeepers are very shortsighted in terms of attracting sales revenue. "A lot of salesmen just think of the revenue they can make today rather than think how people tell about their experience back home and on the Internet. A lot of people are annoyed by the way shopkeepers distract them on the street and how prices of items can change so much from shop to another," he said.
"I went to a few shops with a foreign girlfriend of mine. In one shop a bag she wanted cost 200 euros, but in another, it was priced 85 Turkish liras. Shopkeepers should not only learn to realize their attention is annoying, but that these kind of obscene prices and price differences leave a bad image of the town," he said.
Shopkeepers’ attention is also being considered a major con for Alanya by foreign tour operators, such as Finland's Aurinkomatkat-SunTours, which lists "excessive attention" from salesmen as one of the four main shortcomings of Alanya in its sales brochure for 2009. The other three cons of Alanya are excessively hot weather in the mid-summer, possible traffic jams and problems in electricity and water distribution. Clearly, although the municipality's efforts to bring an end to the harassment were the right move, it has not borne enough results.
A brief test by the writer of this article, a Finnish-born reporter for the Daily News, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and carrying a map of Alanya and a camera, proved Irene's and Ali's criticism was founded. During a three-day visit to Alanya, I was approached by the staff of roughly every fourth shop or restaurant I passed by. While some of the attention consisted of polite “hellos” and “good mornings,” some of it was all but appropriate attention such as whistles. More importantly, none of the attention – not even the polite hellos – convinced me to step into a restaurant or a shop. I simply felt disturbed.
Anja, 48, from Dusseldorf in Germany, who did not want to give her full name, said the attention does not convince her to buy a certain product or step into a certain restaurant either. She has been visiting Alanya three times a year for the past 18 years, and today two of her relatives own property in the town.
"I've learned the skill to ignore the calls during these years. What goes in from one ear, comes out from the other," she told the Daily News.
She also said the city should now protect itself against over-development, which has been supported by the property boom of recent years. "Streets and pedestrian zones in Alanya have improved a little bit in recent years. Restaurants are also cleaner than before. But there are just too many buildings here these days. The development should stop, it’s already too much. Every three months that I come here I see yet another new building," she said.
Ali agreed and said one reason why disciplining overly enthusiastic salesmen is difficult is in fact Alanya's size. "The number of businesses is just growing all the time and so is the number of people working in Alanya. It's difficult to control the situation in a growing city," he said.