x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Turkey to put Bursa on map by cutting travel time to Istanbul

Turkey has begun the construction of a $6.7 billion rail and road project and a bridge that will reduce travelling time between Istanbul and Bursa, a key industrial city.

Turkey is earmarking billions of dollars worth of private investment to develop infrastructure networks and tourism projects to connect two major cities.

The country has kick-started the construction of a $US6.7 billion (Dh24.61bn) rail and road project and a bridge that would reduce travelling time between Istanbul, where most international routes fly into, and Bursa, a key industrial city.

The plans come amid $120 million worth of advertising planned this year by Turkish Airlines, which aims to market Bursa, Bodrum and several other cities as winter destinations, said Temel Kotil, the company's chief executive. Earlier this week, the airlines orderd 82 aircraft A320 series from Airbus, with an option to buy 35 others. The orders, to be delivered by 2015, are estimated to be worth $9.3bn according to Bloomberg News. "We have a lot of travellers going to Istanbul, but now we need to introduce the rest of Turkey to our customers," Mr Kotil said.

Arabian Gulf travellers, including Emiratis, have visited Istanbul in droves to see the Blue Mosque and the city's Islamic heritage sites. But Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, which is a four-hour bus and ferry ride from Istanbul, remains largely out of visitors' view.

Upon completion in 2016, the project will cut travelling time to two hours, said Vedat Muftuoglu, the Bursa vice governor.

"Businessmen have approached us willing to pitch some of their own investment into this strategic project," he said. "It shows how valuable this project is in bringing the world to Bursa."

While a name has yet to be chosen for the ambitious project, Mr Muftuoglu said he "would like to see it named after Orhan Ghazi", the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Bursa, which was the final stop on the lucrative Silk Road trading routes that began during China's Han Dynasty between 206BC and 220AD hopes to capitalize on its scenic landscape of lush greenery, high mountains and thermal springs.

The Turkish government, along with businesses, is seeking private investment from the Gulf to develop a sprawling $2bn tourism project. The development, will include golf courts and luxury spas that will make use of Bursa's thermal springs.

"Bursa is a city that is known for its chestnut, black fig, peaches and pears, as well as forests, falls and lakes," said Mr Muftuoglu. "We need investment from the GCC, our Muslim neighbours, to showcase this city, which until now has really only been marketed as a business hub."

 

halsayegh@thenational.ae