Spa tourism to detox winter blues

Detoxification, the health god of many a modern urbanite, seem set to work its revitalizing magic on Turkey’s somewhat listless winter tourism. Bodrum’s Hotel Kempinski Barbaros Bay is attracting guests even in the short days of the cold months with its pioneering detox programs for high-flying hedonists.

Winter has always been the low season for hotels on Turkey's southern coast, however all that is about to change with the ushering in of “spa tourism.”

The Turkish Daily News' sister paper Referans spoke to the management of one of Bodrum's newest and most high-profile hotels to find out more. The Hotel Kempinski Barbaros Bay opened its doors last year and has focused on spa tourism in order to increase winter occupancy rates with its pioneering detoxification – or detox – program as the main attraction.

Discussing ways to tackle the winter lull in tourist numbers, the hotel's General Manager Michael Sorgenfrey suggested that more international hotel chains in the region boost off-season tourism. He added that Kempinski had been the first international hotel chain to establish a presence in Bodrum, followed by Hawthorn last summer, and that other chains were also interested. More hotel chains means more charter travel to Bodrum, which ups the chances for winter visitors, he explained.

Spa tourism has thrown a lifeline to Bodrum, Sorgenfrey claimed. “In Turkey there is a quite a group interested in spa centers, and detox programs in particular. Our primary goal is to reach these people. We are one of the only two hotels open [in winter].” He explained that they were interested not only in domestic spa tourism, but also in attracting guests from overseas.

The hotel used the winter season to target companies rather than individuals, in many cases the process being one of symbiosis, with the Kempinski providing a two- or three-day program during conferences to “companies that educate other companies in detox programs,” Sorgenfrey said. Detox is certainly becoming big business, and, according to the general manager, it's even “hip.”

The Kempinski Barbaros Bay offers three or five-day detox programs based on “a well-balanced diet accompanied by special detox massages to help the metabolism work well,” explained Sorgenfrey. This is in marked contrast to the general perception – and treatment – of detox programs as slimming programs in disguise.

The price tag starts at 500 euros but with additional treatments costs can rise as high as 2,000 euros. There is a distinct set of luxury lovers in Turkey, and Sorgenfrey underlined that these high-flying hedonists would ensure the success of spa tourism in Turkey.

What of the competition? As one of the leading tourism markets in the world Croatia has made a serious leap forward in spa tourism, he noted. “Many international hotel chains have started business in Croatian towns. Most recently the world-famous Aman Resort, which is running hotels with a 30-year lease period in three different locations in Croatia.” However, he remained optimistic “After all, there are many foreigners with houses in Bodrum. These too hold great potential for us.”

In Istanbul at Nişantaşı's Sofa Hotel, the Taylife Detox and Wellness Center run by Turkish dietician Taylan Kümeli is among Turkey's best detox centers. Thalassotherapy and balneotherapy, slimming, anti-aging, steam and metabolism-rejuvenation treatments as well as physical exercise, stress removal and relaxation programs are available, as are massage, fitness and cardio centers.

Kempinski currently has three hotels in Turkey; in Istanbul, Antalya and Bodrum. The chain also has two residence projects in the pipeline with launches planned for this summer.