Fourth busiest European airport and voted ‘best place to meet’ – Istanbul starts 2015 with a bang

Istanbul’s growing status as an international hub was confirmed in January, after statistics confirmed the city now has the fourth busiest airport in Europe while a leading events magazine named it the world’s best meeting destination.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport saw a staggering 11 per cent rise in passenger numbers in 2014, up to 57 million passengers from 51 million in 2013. This puts it ahead of Spain’s Madrid and Amsterdam’s Schiphol which drops to fifth place, with only London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Germany’s Frankfurt airports transporting more people than Ataturk.

Such a bullish rise would indicate that Ataturk could break into the top three busiest European airports in 2015. It also reflects how more airlines are choosing Istanbul as a transfer hub, and highlight the growth of Turkey’s national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, which saw a 14 per cent increase in passengers in 2014. Named ‘Best Airline Europe’ by Skytrax for four years running, Turkish Airlines has a network of more than 260 direct flights.

Elsewhere, an international team of architects has begun work on the design of Istanbul’s planned new €10.2 billion airport, which is expected to boast the world’s biggest terminal complex. And despite issues over funding, Turkish Airlines’ president and CEO, Temil Kotil, recently indicated that the 2017 opening date is feasible.

Meanwhile, Istanbul has won the Meetings Star Award 2014, being named Best Meeting Destination by Kongres Magazine and beating 44 other international cities, all of which were judged on natural and cultural factors, general and transport infrastructure as well as tourist infrastructure.

General Manager of the Istanbul Convention & Visitors Bureau (ICVB), Ozgul Ozkan Yavuz, commented at the awards ceremony in Slovenia: “We are thrilled that Istanbul has been selected as the best meeting destination – a city of both historical and natural beauties dating at least 8,500 years. As a historical meeting point between East and West and spanning two continents, today’s Istanbul is a Top 10 Meeting & Congress destination offering unique and exciting venues. The city has the capacity to host every type of event, from bespoke incentives to meetings for up to 30,000 for corporate and leisure visitors alike. Combined with Istanbul’s historic venues, palaces, cisterns and the like, it offers meeting planners a variety of remarkable options to create truly outstanding events.”

One Istanbul neighbourhood benefiting from the city’s growing status and recently highlighted as a hot spot for investment is Karakoy, in the Beyoglu district on the city’s European side. Investment worth an estimated $320million is currently being undertaken there, including renovations and hotel construction – new hotels under construction will increase room capacity by 1,600 rooms. These developments make Karakoy an appealing place to invest in Turkish property.

The mayor of Beyoğlu, Ahmet Misbah Demircan, said in January that the transformation in Karakoy area is just a small part of upcoming investments. He said that in the last ten years, 259 out of 551 buildings in the area have been renovated and that the economy of the whole of the Beyoglu district has undergone a transformation, with tourism and culture now playing an important.