|By Fuat Kircaali||
|July 6, 2007 01:45 PM EDT||
This 4th of July marked my sixth consecutive visit to the Divan Palmira Hotel in Bodrum, Turkey. My visit this year prompted me to write this review. The Divan Palmira Hotel is located in the Golturkbuku region of Bodrum. Two recent cover stories published last year in The New York Times Travel Section called this Aegien Sea summer destination The St. Tropez of Turkey.
For those readers who would like to know more about Bodrum, especially the village of Golturkbuku, there is plenty of well written reading material (including these two 2006 New York Times travel write-ups). In this review, I will try to stay focused specifically on my most recent trip, the hotel, the changes which took place at this hotel this year and the highlights of my trip.
The New York Times - Jan / 2006
The New York Times - Aug / 2006
Our Arrival on Saturday, June 30, 2007
When I emailed the hotel before my arrival to Turkbuku, (the formal name of this town is Golturkbuku) I felt that I was communicating with a brand new crew at the front desk. We found out, only upon our arrival, that the entire hotel staff was replaced with a young and inexperienced crew (with an exception for two long term waiters, Onur and Suat, remaining as the only survivors of the glory days).
When we walked in the hotel after a 45 minute cab ride from the airport, (which cost us 85 YTL -if you don't speak Turkish, the airport cab drivers will charge you 85 Euros instead, roughly twice as much) we did not see a single familiar face at the front desk. One of the young, polite and smiley reception desk staff members tried very hard to process our American Express on half a dozen or so different credit card machines laying on his desk, and each time when the card did not go through, asked us what our pass code was. The night before in Istanbul on our way to Bodrum, we stayed at the The Ritz Carlton Istanbul, and we did not have to wrestle through credit card processing machines during our check in. Instead, we were greeted with drinks at the lobby restaurant as they completed our paperwork, and a professional young lady brought our room keys to us at the restaurant we were relaxing at. We had the same very impressive five-star check-in experience at the Ciragan Palace Hotel during our last night stay in Turkey.
Cats in Turkbuku
To be fair, I will not compare our first impressions this year at the Divan Palmira Bodrum with Hotel De Paris in Monte Carlo, Kempinski Ciragan Palace Hotel in Istanbul, or even The Ritz Carlton Istanbul, but I think a fair comparison and expectation would be a similar boutique hotel such as Kivotos Hotel in Mykonos, Greece which we visited last September.
Both hotels, Divan Palmira in Bodrum, Turkey and Kivotos Hotel in the Greek Island of Mykonos are listed among the leading five-star boutique hotels in the world. Any five-star hotel needs to offer a five-star check-in experience, greeted by an experienced five-star hotel staff, dressed professinally (at least better than a cheap cruise ship staff). I am sure everyone in the hospitality business knows what the important details and expectations from a five-star rated hotel are.
Kivotos Hotel in the Greek Island of Mykonos
For the first time in my last 6 visits, I was immediately disappointed at Divan Palmira Hotel upon our arrival.
I am not sure if the Turks appreciate an objective review and a constructive criticism, but I am pretty confident that they would not like to be compared to their Greek cousins, especially if they are reminded that they have plenty of catching up to do in very similar areas. During our visit to the Kivotos Hotel last year (both hotels are similar in size with roughly 60-65 guest rooms) we were greeted by the hotel's owner, his wife and their son (who is studying business administration in Paris). Since our stay at their hotel, we regularly received personal emails and greetings from the family -not computer generated tacky sales spam- as well as email letters from the hotel staff (like my friend Maria, the waitress at the pool area, and Venessa who worked at the reception desk). We also received a beautiful Christmas gift from the family, a glass frame artwork, hand made in Mykonos with the hotel's logo hand carved by a local artist. Vanessa and her mom opened up their own boutique hotel last winter at a popular ski resort in Thessaloniki, Greece. They all kept us posted as if we wre their own family members.
Water Toys of Divan Palmira Hotel in Turkbuku, Bodrum
I can summarize the main difference between these two hotels, as both of them pretty much reflect their national characteristics (when it comes to getting hospitality business). The Turks never learned, or even showed the slightest passion, or interest, to compete in tourist related industries on a global stage- as compared to their Greek cousins who proved and improved themselves year after year to be one of the world leaders in this industry. I used to stay in a different five star boutique Bodrum Hotel, "The Marmara Bodrum " overlooking the Bodrum Castle, before discovering "Divan Palmira" in Turkbuku. I changed hotels after a pair of reading glasses were taken from our room by hotel staff, and the hotel management suggested that we might have forgotten them in a cab. We then decided to move on to a different Bodrum hotel permanently, never looking back.
Our First Day Breakfast
Divan hotels are owned and operated by Koc Holding, Turkish energy-to-banking conglomorate with 2006 consolidated annual revenues exceeding 34,5 billion USD. Mr. Rahmi Koc, honorary chairman of this family business was invited to the first international Superyacht Conference & Expo as one of the keynote speakers two years ago, but we were informed that his schedule did not permit him to attend the conference at that time. We did run into Mr. Rahmi Koc in several occassions dining in Bodrum area.
It was actually during our first day's morning breakfast that I realized that the entire hotel staff was different than the crew we were used to seeing over the years- and I mean everyone was a new face. The brand new team included the hotel manager, Murat Bey, and his assistant manager lady (I don't recall her name). These were the two who took over the disaster.
I also realized on our first day morning that I did not have my morning papers waiting for me on the the door for the first time in four years. I walked over to the small grocery store next to the hotel and bought two Turkish morning papers, Hurriyet and Sabah.
However, I must say that the breakfast service at Divan Palmira Hotel remained personal and well managed. I have absolutely nothing to criticize there.
Lunch and Dinner Service, Local Celebrities and Star Struck Wait Staff
I can't say the same for the lunch and dinner service. The hotel's restaurant appears to have no management at all. We were never greeted as we walked in for lunch or dinner (with the exception of the last night's dinner where almost the entire hotel staff paraded through our table one by one after the word let out that we were in the middle of writing this review). I expected this exaggerated attention during our entire stay.
We found out that hotel's long time restaurant manager, the heavy set gentleman, recently had a motorcycle accident and remains in bed. We wish him a speedy recovery. I am not sure though if he would still be employed if he wasn't hospitalized, based on what we observed at this hotel this year. By the way, I never had a single exchange of words with the previous restuarant manager during the past four years. I had seen him at work and did not know the man; I observed that he just did his job and ran that restaurant like clock work while he was there.
The inexperienced and completely unqualified new wait staff of Divan Palmira Hotel was often star struck and distracted by local Turkish celebtrities dining at the restaurant. Since we did not know any of these local celebrities, we developed a habit of following daily Turkish newspapers and the evening television entertainment programs to find out who our neighbors were. The night when a gray haired, balding, man in his seventies, and his entourage arrived, the entire dinner service stopped for everryone else. The one qualified waiter present at the hotel, Suat, was assigned to this man's table. Later, we found out that this man was the owner of the Turkish soccer team, Fenerbahce. After dinner that night we went to the opening gala of a night club called Club 63. What we found was that the star of the gala, Ibrahim Tatlises, was singing- but he was star-struck by the same, very popular, old man that ruined the dinner service at our hotel. The singer was practically on his lap!
The World's Best Chocolate Souffle No More
There were three restaurants in the world which served the best chocolate souffle or hot chocolate cake: Tavern on the Green in New York City, Hotel De Paris in Monte Carlo, and Divan Palmira Hotel in Bodtum, Turkey. After changing ownership following 9/11, Tavern on the Green now has a new pastry chef who dropped chocolate souffle from their desert menu. This week we found out that after Joep Bakx, the Dutch CEO of the Turkish Divan Hotel Chain, executed the entire staff in this hotel, he also made sure that the chef who was the hero behind Divan Palmira's hot chocolate cake was also among the fired.
Our Other Experiences
Twice during our stay I happened to be at Divan Palmira's reception desk. Once, to make reservations for a concert, and the second time to change our plane tickets. The first time we observed an outraged hotel guest complaining to a front desk employee that he had changed his room six times since his arrival earlier that day and still was not satisfied with his accomodations for one reason or another. The second time, we witnessed a foreign guest and his wife screaming for help to get them out of this f**ng hotel immediately.
The first four days of our stay our towels were never replaced, and basic necessaties, such as the toilet paper in the bathroom, were never replanished. I had to make a morning routine of finding the cleaning crew and their supply cart, and helping myself to thier toliet paper.
The television set in our room (Room 125) was broken and never fixed or replaced during our entire stay. If we watched a total of five minuetes on our of TV we looked at the black screen with a white line in the middle. For a last effort I left a message during our check-out that they should replace the TV set for the next guests in that room.
For the first five days we could never find a waiter in the pool area to order something cold to drink. We had to make a call to the hotel manager (at which time a full-time waiter was assigned to follow us the rest of the day).
Daily New Chinese Fortune Cookies Left on Our Beds
We never received fresh towels, but our afternoon naps were promptly interrupted by a boy who wanted to place the daily fortune cookie paper signs on our bed. One of these read "please be nice" and the message we got from the one photographed above was "We know you are probably wealthy (our room cost us $650 per day plus expenses so it does not take a genius to conclude that) but you are most likely an asshole too."
Don't Use the Hotel's Barber!
While I was looking for the hotel gym one day, I got lost and ended up at the barber who gave me a mohawk haircut. Even worse, he cut half of my mustache off. I flew back home with half a mustache, hoping that the other half would catch up soon.
Joep Bakx: How Competent Is The New Dutch CEO of Turkish Divan Hotel Chain?
It didn't take us long to conclude that this would be our last stay at Divan Palmira in Turkbuku, Bodrum. From what we gathered after a brief Google search, the new CEO has a growth plan including building new hotels in cities like Eskisehir and Gaziantep. If this man can not compete in top markets such as Bodrum, what can you expect him to accomplish in secondary cities where his hotels will most likely operate at under 10- 20% capacity? If what we experienced this week in his Bodrum hotel is an indication, anyone who lived through a similar experience would easily question his competency.
My advice to Mr. Rahmi Koc is to take the hotel keys from this man's hands and ship him back to Netherlands, before he creates more damage.
Bodrum 2007: Other Impressions of The Year
Any developing country has its growing pains, which include goverment corruption in all levels and unique local problems that need to be solved. Turkey has its problems too. Before the end of this month, the country will have its next general elections. This is an event of historical dimensions. The current majority goverment with Islamic roots has been irritating the generals for quite some time now. Turkey, a poweful and a big democratic country with the largest army among any of the U.S. ally countries, was ruled under the protective wings of the Sultan for hundreds of years. The young "oriental" Turkish democracy still needs a little hand holding by the good generals in Ankara for the sake of not waking up to an "Islamic Republic of Turkey" overnight.
The little remaining forest land in Bodrum ignited and burned by criminals as the "high society" vacationers in Turkbuku watched the flames as if it were the 4th of July celebration fireworks
Two of the inherent problems of Turkey are "corruption" and "traffic." We observed both issues during our stay. The laws in the country were written in a way that states that if forest land burns down, public decision makers are allowed to re-zone this land as property qualified for housing development. So every summer local goverments, thiefs, criminals and the real estate developers come together for a big luau, and burn the forests of the country. They do this right in time for the upcoming winter construction season. Forest burning dates this year coincided with our stay in Bodrum.
The day we arrived in Bodrum, three kids lost their lives in a traffic accident at an intersection close to our hotel. One week after this accident, on our way back to the airport, we saw the prompt action taken by the local government. A permanent ambulance embedded in the intersection was stationed to take the next accident victims (or their remains) to the hospital (or the morgue) when the next accident occured. The 28 year-old man who was killed in this accident was an up and coming music star who recently won the Turkish version of the "American Idol" contest.
The accident that the hotel's previous manager was involved in landed him in the hospital and killed four passanger's of the other car.
The night we went to the Ibo Concert at Club 63, we witnessed a fresh accident, a car dangling at the edge of a cliff, a scene which is impossible to recreate in any James Bond movie. The next morning we learned that our 16 year-old cab driver, who drove us to the club, already totaled two cars this summer, one on a head-on crash, and the other by driving through a house at a sharp turn.
I also realized that morning, with my new haircut, that I looked just like this kid driver. All I needed was to add some shiney hair glue and form a permanent tornado twist! This exciting discovery did not help me with the missing left part of my freshly trimmed mustache though.
With all seriousness, I'm not expecting many congratulation emails for this blog entry. YV&C was crticized by many in the superyacht industry when we ran this story a few years ago too. There is an old Turkish saying, "dost aci soyler" so be it.
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
Sep. 30, 2016 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,231
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
Sep. 30, 2016 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 3,064
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
Sep. 30, 2016 03:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,747
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
Sep. 30, 2016 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,624
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
Sep. 30, 2016 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,933
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
Sep. 30, 2016 02:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,430
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridharabalan, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, Inc., will focus on key challenges in building an Internet of Things solution infrastructure. He will shed light on efficient ways of defining interactions within IoT solutions, leading to cost and time reduction. He will also introduce ways to handle data and how one can develop IoT solutions that are lean, flexible and configurable, thus making IoT infrastructure agile and scalable.
Sep. 30, 2016 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,635
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
Sep. 30, 2016 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,080
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Sep. 30, 2016 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,981
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
Sep. 30, 2016 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,680
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
Sep. 30, 2016 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,381
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Sep. 29, 2016 11:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,218
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Sep. 29, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,060
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
Sep. 29, 2016 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,817
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of (at least) three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the back-end service, and the mobile application for the end user’s controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target –...
Sep. 29, 2016 08:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,556
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Sep. 29, 2016 06:15 PM EDT Reads: 3,732
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
Sep. 29, 2016 05:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,865
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
Sep. 29, 2016 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 3,483
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
Sep. 29, 2016 04:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,808
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
Sep. 29, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,356