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Sohret Pakis, Polin, Discusses the Future of the Attractions Industry in Turkey


Related: “WaterTheme Parks”: Are Waterparks Set for an Evolutionary Leap?/ The Race is on with King Cobra: the Revolutionary Waterslide Makes its Debut

Turkey is Sohret Pakis,  Polin,  discusses the future of the attractions industry in Turkeybucking the trend of worldwide recession as one of the world’s fastest growing economies with a vibrant tourist industry.  Sohret Pakis, Marketing Manager for Polin, discusses Turkey’s thriving economy and the future potential for growth in theme parks, waterparks and aquariums¹.


Following Turkey’s 2001 stock-market crisis, the Turkish economy underwent a programme of major structural reforms, which have led to a growing economy every year since.  Tight fiscal discipline and strong financial structures have proved resilient to the global economic crisis. 

OECD projections place Turkey as the fastest growing economy among the OECD’s 34 member countries between 2011-2017, with an annual growth rate of 6.7%.   In 2011, Turkey ranked as the 16th largest economy in the world and 6th in Europe [GDP at PPP, IMF-WEO].

Highlights of the Turkish economy’s performance between 2002 and 2011 include:

  • Average annual real GDP growth of 5.2% pa. [TurkStat]
  • GDP almost tripled to $772 billion in 2011, and GDP per capita in 2011 was $10, 444. [TurkStat]
  • US $110 billion foreign direct investment (FDI) over the nine years. Turkey currently ranks as the 13th most attractive FDI destination. [2012 A.T. Kearney FDI Confidence Index]

Turkey GDP Growth OECD by Sohret Pakis,  Polin waterparks and pool systems

Turkey’s population stands at around 75 million people, of which half are under the age of 30 with 27 million young, well-educated and motivated professionals in the labour force.   

Turkey’s government is a stable Republican parliamentary democracy and the currency is Turkish Lira.  Turkey also has a very large domestic market with 51 million credit-card users, 50 million internet users and 65 million mobile-phone subscribers.Ephesus library of Celsus Turkey

The Turkish Tourist Industry

With its combination of a pleasant climate, attractive beaches and sites of historical interest, Turkey has long been a popular tourist destination. 

Turkey is well placed geographically for tourism, being easily accessible to 1.5 billion potential visitors from Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa.   In 2011, 31.5 million tourists arrived in Turkey bringing $23 billion of revenue.  The top three visiting nationalities which account for a third of all tourists are from Germany, Russia and the UK.

Antalya and Istanbul rank as third and ninth respectively on the World Tourism Organisation’s most visited cities, in a list that includes Paris and London as first and second and New York and Singapore as fourth and fifth.  Antalya is situated along the Mediterranean in the southern part of Turkey had 10.5 million arrivals in 2011, but unlike other locations on the list, people mainly visit for summer vacations.

Maxx Royal luxury resort waterpark in Turkey with King Cobra waterslide supplied by Polin waterparks and Pool systems - Sohret pakisWaterparks

More and more tourists flock to Turkey each year, most of them choosing to visit the coastal regions in the summer.  This has led to an enormous growth in the resort market and as a consequence, resort waterparks are becoming very popular.  For example in Antalya, every single resort has its own waterpark.

At present Turkey has a total of 93 waterparks, all of them outdoors: 51 stand-alone and 42 resort waterparks [only resort water parks with more than 5 waterslides have been included in these figures].  The first resort waterpark was built in 1988 and the first stand-alone waterpark in Turkey was built in 1993.

Ticket prices for Turkish waterparks are 16 euros on average; large waterparks charge 20 euros, whereas tickets for small waterparks will be closer to 14 euros.

In 2012, 14 million people visited waterparks in Turkey.  By 2023, it is anticipated that there will be a total of 283 waterparks in Turkey, with attendance of 41 million people.

Turkey waterpark attendance forecasts from Sohret Pakis,  Polin Waterpark and Pool Systems

Turkey has many very good waterparks.  Some of those considered to be the best are:

  • Polin's King Cobra waterslide at Maxx Royale Turkey - Sohret Pakis Aquafantasy Waterpark in Selcuk, Izmir, in the Aegean part of Turkey.  Selcuk is popular due to its proximity to the sea and the ruins at Ephesus which include the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  This waterpark, built in 2000, has proved to be the No 1 destination spot in the area with 450, 000 visitors a year.  Aquafantasy extends over 60, 000 square meters and has 30 unique attractions with a new one planned for next year.  The waterpark is open for 150 days a year with average attendance of 3, 000 visitors a day. 
  • Aqua City is in Balçova, Izmir.  It was opened in 2005 and is also located in the Aegean region.  It has an area of 40, 000 square meters with 28 unique slides. It is open 150 days a year and attracts up to 2, 000 visitors a day and 300, 000 visitors a year.
  • Gural Premier is a resort waterpark which is part of a five-star beachfront resort located in Antalya.  Gural Premier opened in June 2010 with construction costs of $110 million.  The waterpark is open only to guests of the resort but offers a complete waterpark experience, featuring 26 first-class waterslides, a kid-sized water-play area with a pirate ship and a pirate-themed water-play structure.  Gural Group, owners of Gural Premier own another five waterpark resorts.  Polin have supplied more than 30 waterslides to each of the first three resorts that the Gural Group built illustrating the importance that the Gural Group places on the waterpark element of their resorts.  Gural Group have announced that they are planning to invest in more waterpark resorts in the near future.
  • Maxx Royal, another waterpark resort in Antalya, has a luxury hotel situated on an area of 400, 000 square meters with its Cobra Kingdom Waterpark covering 10, 000 square meters.   Cobra Kingdom opened in May 2011 with 10 waterslides, including a signature ride, a kid-sized water-play area and a small water-play structure.  Again, this waterpark is only open to the resort’s guests.  

Cobra Kingdom is significant because it was the first waterpark resort in Turkey to invest in a signature ride.  As a result, there is now a trend among resort waterparks in Turkey to build signature rides.  Polin have already finalized contracts for signature rides at five more resorts for 2013, and we expect the demand will grow.

Another trend is the development of major indoor water parks; currently there are a few operations that just have indoor slides.  The cities with the most potential for these facilities are the larger ones such as Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Mersin and Antalya.

Maxx Royale King Conbra waterslide in Turkey - Sohret Pakis,  Polin waterparks and pool systems

Theme Parks

There have been two major closures of theme parks in Turkey that are worth looking at to understand how things can go wrong.

The first theme park built in Turkey was Tatilya, in Istanbul. Tatilya was an indoor park that opened in 1996 with 24 attractions. The theme park closed after 10 years.  Many people cite the location and poor transportation links as the reason for failure.

A more recent theme park failure was the Landora theme park which opened in October 2011, and closed in June 2012.  The theme park cost 400 million euros to build and had five themed zones and 21 attractions.  The total complex covered 70, 000 square meters with a shopping mall, two hotels and a 6, 000 seat arena. Fun Lab Istanbul is an FEC in Turkey - Sohret Pakis,  Polin Waterpark and Pool Systems

Scheduling the opening in October, when the summer season ends in Istanbul, set Landora off to a bad start. Unfortunately, once again the site selection and transportation links were poor.  Finally a street design concept throughout the park did not take account of the very strong winds in the winter, which made just walking around the park extremely difficult. 

But Turkey also has successful theme parks and FECs, and there is huge potential in this sector for the future.

Fun Lab, formerly Atlantis, is successful indoor entertainment complex located inside the Cevahir Mall in Istanbul.  Operated by the Balo company, Fun Lab covers 11, 000 square meters and includes 18 rides and has a themed playground.  Fun Lab enjoys good daily attendance and there are plans for new attractions for next year with designs supplied by KCC.

There are three interesting new theme park projects currently under construction in Turkey:

  • Vialand is a major theme park set to open in April in the heart of Istanbul; a great location covering 600 acres of land leased from the Municipality of Istanbul  near the old city on the European side.  With an investment of 450 million euros, the theme park will have moVialand Theme Park in Turkey - Sohret Pakis,  Polin Waterparks and Pool Systemsre than 50 rides.  Alongside the theme park will be the largest shopping and entertainment complex in Turkey.  Investors are anticipating upwards of 30 million visitors a year and offer employment to 4, 000 people.
  • The Istanbul Theme Park is set to open in 2015 and will include a theme park, an exhibition centre, housing and a mall.  An estimated 1.5 million square meters of garbage dump was purchased for the $1.9 billion project.  So far $80 million have been reserved just to get rid of waste.
  • Permits are being sought for a major theme park in Antalya.  The developers, Rixos Group are a well-known company that owns and operates around 13 world-class, five-star resorts.  Initial costs are set at $1.6 billion dollars. 14, 000 acres have been set aside for this project however negotiations are also still ongoing with the municipality.


Aquariums in Turkey are a completely new trend, but they are catching on pretty quickly and becoming very popular.  In fact, the first aquarium in Turkey was built and opened to the public just three years ago in 2009. Turkey now has eight aquariums with 14 million visitors for the nine months to September 2012.  By 2023 aquarium visitors are expected to be around 50 million per annum.

Turkey Aquarium visitor projections from Sohret Pakis,  Polin waterpark and pool systems

These are the top-four aquariums in Turkey in terms of investment costs, daily visitors and the actual size of the aquariums. More aquarium projects are being planned in different cities for the time being.  Aquariums trend are welcomed well in Turkey and It is safe to say that aquariums still have great potential in the near future. 

  • Turkuazoo was the first aquarium in Turkey and is a subsidiary of Global Aquariums.  Turkuazoo is part of Forum Istanbul which is a large mall in Istanbul Aquarium,  Turkey - Sohret Pakis,  Polin Waterparks and Pool Systems looks at growth in aquariums in TurkeyIstanbul.  With an initial investment of 22 million euros, the aquarium is 8, 000 square meters and has a water space capacity of 4.5 million litres.  The fifth largest aquarium in the world, Turkuazoo has 43 exhibits with more than 10, 000 sea creatures and attracts more than 2.5 million guests a year.
  • The Istanbul Aquarium opened in 2011 and attracts about 7, 500 guests a day.  With a capacity of 6.8 million litres and covering 22, 000 square meters, the highly themed rainforest exhibit is a popular part of the attraction.
  • Aqua Vega Mall Aquarium opened last year in Ankara.  At a cost of 20 million euros, the aquarium is located inside a shopping mall and has a capacity of 3.5 million litres, and a footprint of 6, 000 square meters.  Aqua Vega attracts around 3, 500 visitors a day and is home to 12, 000 different species.
  • The Antalya Aquarium opened this year and has a water space of 5 million litres cubic meters and an aquarium space of 12, 000 square meters. It cost an estimated 45 million euros to build and attracts about 8, 000 visitors a day.  The decoration of the main tank was created by the famous Italian sculptor Benedetti.


Turkey has a thriving economy and high proportion of young, educated citizens eager to have attractions to visit in their own country.  Add to this the appeal of Turkey as an increasingly popular holiday destination for tourists, and it is clear that there will be a very strong demand to support the development of theme parks, waterparks and aquariums in the future.

¹Based on a presentation at EAS 2012

Images of resort waterpark are from Maxx Royal

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