This is the second in a four-part series from ISHC member Daniel Englender of Benjamin West. He and his partners from their global offices will review the topic of "FF&E Project Delivery Around the World" in a series, focusing on the key elements of what it takes to be successful in terms of furniture, fixtures and equipment projects—both renovations and new builds—around the world. Read the first part here.
There's really only one city in the world that so dramatically straddles two continents: Istanbul. As the largest city in the Turkish Republic, it has enjoyed a storied history for more than 700 years, and its current population of 16 million is helping to drive the country forward—and fast. Turkey's rise within the international business community and correspondingly within the world of travel and tourism has created a vibrant opportunity for hotel developers, owners and operators alike. There are both cultural and operational differences working in this region of Europe/Asia, and we'll cover some practical issues in this article.
Daniel Englender of Benjamin West
One individual, Atatürk, shaped today's Turkey. His military campaigns 90 years ago gained Turkey its independence, and he followed this by turning the country into a politically and culturally modern, secular (Islamic) country based on his observations of many Western nations. Today's Turks still revere Atatürk, and you'll see his photographs on public display across Istanbul and other Turkish cities.
Turkey’s continued growth
Turkey has 72 million inhabitants and is larger than both France and the United Kingdom. The current government certainly faces some internal religious tension, but its economic growth has taken it from being a marginal to a major regional player. While the majority of Turkey is firmly placed in Asia (bordering Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia amongst others), it has applied to join the European Union. There is much debate on whether Turkey should be admitted, given its location and political background, although at present its solid economic growth would be a very welcome addition to the Union.
In relation to hospitality, the Turkish nation has experienced exponential growth over recent years. Tourist arrivals doubled between 1999 and 2004, and then doubled again up to 2010. It is currently running at just under 30 million annual visitors, and this rapid expansion has attracted interest from almost every international hotel operator. While Hilton was the first to open there in 1955, its network of operated hotels still numbers less than a dozen. More than two-thirds of hotels in Turkey remain unbranded, with Marriott operating just six hotels across the entire country and InterContinental Hotels Group with 17, mostly Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. All operators, however, are gearing up for expansion, and average daily rate of some Istanbul properties exceeds $850 thereby enticing a wide number of luxury brands to search for local development partners.
Local regulations and customs
When comparing differences in working practices that affect hotel FF&E projects, we can point to many issues that are individual to each country, whether we're discussing fire certification in Italy versus France and the U.K. or comparing delivery and installation regulations in force across Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Indeed individual cities within the same country can operate wholly different legislation, and the officers of each local governing body can cause major issues to project teams not aware of the latest regulations and local customs.
There are some distinct differences between working in Turkey and in the current European Union, and we'll consider just a few below. Unusually, some of these differences can benefit projects, while others generally cause problems for the uninitiated. For example, there are no official Turkish Fire Rating standards for carpet, curtain or upholstery fabrics to protect the safety of guests. On the face of it, this makes it easier for interior designers and developers as they do not need to worry about certification, but it should be remembered that international operators have their own brand standards applicable outside of any local legislation; this aspect often is overlooked.
When based abroad and purchasing products for Turkey, one is unlikely to be able to recommend the use of the regular sales representative as most suppliers have dedicated agents for the Turkish market and simply refuse to allow goods to be imported without the sale passing through their local distributor. The use of local Turkish representatives aids the process as they can advise on local value added tax and import rates, which vary dramatically. On the flip side, the cost is significantly higher, and it's all about the relationships that have been forged between the purchasing agent and these local Turkish sources.
In terms of local customs and duty costs, these can vary wildly depending on how the item is described on the sales invoice. A glass and metal chandelier that includes a small fabric tassel detail can suddenly land the hotel with a 52% increase in cost, simply because the local Turkish textile industry is jealously guarded by Turkish authorities who make it difficult to import any fabric whatsoever.
Consideration also needs to be given to any FF&E products that will be imported into the country as composition documents often require stamping at the Turkish consulate in the country of manufacturing origin. This is especially hard to organize when original sources are guarded by the selling organization. In our experience on recent Turkish projects, we have found ourselves trimming long lengths of fabric into smaller rolls as packages under 50 kilograms (110 pounds) in weight are exempt from a whole raft of paperwork issues. More cost in transport perhaps but a massive saving in duty costs, time and aggravation for all parties.
The advice we’d give to anyone considering working, developing or operating in Turkey is not substantially different to what we give for other regions of the world, namely that local knowledge and experience are important to a smooth running and an ultimately successful project.
Daniel Englender, a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, is managing director and partner in Benjamin West London, where he handles the company’s projects in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Benjamin West is the leading FF&E and OS&E procurement firm in the world, with offices in Boulder, Colorado, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, London and Miami, with projects in more than 20 countries and deploys more than $1.5 million per day as procurement agent for its clients.
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