Copy of article that appeared in Voices Saturday 9th Oct 2010 

Kate Ashley-Norman – My Turkish Home

 Like many who have invested both time and money in Didim, I am bitterly disappointed with the decision not to go ahead with the golf course. I don’t know any specific facts and figures about what golf could bring to the region, but it does not take an idiot to know that golf attracts serious spending from serious spenders.

I worked for many years in the window industry where the major decision makers (particularly when the times were good), would regularly go off for golfing weekends – 4 day jollies on expenses when business relations were sealed, deals were struck and much merriment was made. Some evenings were spent in the hotel, others on evenings out in the local town’s bars and restaurants. There was no denying the much welcome revenue these spenders brought to the local areas. Corporate golfing is an international industry in itself.

Now I am not a golfer, but I do know that the destinations of these golfing trips were often chosen through word of mouth and reputation of the resort. A Didim golf course was to be the perfect opportunity to bring Didim and Altinkum into the 21st century of serious moneyed tourism.

These same people, contacts that I have maintained and cultivated for well over a decade now, often spoke to me about their wish to visit, and possibly invest, once the golf course was up and running. A three and a half to four hour plane journey was viewed with no more trepidation for a long weekend jolly than a road trip from London to Manchester. A £50,000 2-bedroom apartment was considered exceptional value compared to the quarter of a million many of the Spanish and Portuguese resorts were demanding. £30-50 a head restaurant bills represented excellent value when it came to wining and dining potential million pound contracts. None of this is now going to happen. As much to their disappointment as mine.

Of course, the loss to my business is going to hurt. But more importantly is the loss to the town as a whole. As many who have read my articles over the last eighteen months will know, I always air on the side of optimism. I am excited and impassioned by the massive progress made during the rapid growth of a once small fishing village, I always prefer to give the benefit of the doubt, and can see both sides to any argument. Rome was not built in a day, but Didim is not far off.

But I do believe that we are maybe at a crossroads where there are many strands of development that need to be brought together if the town is not to lose its forward momentum. And with the current council incumbents hanging around in no man’s land, I am not sure who is able to make any proactive decision.

You see, Didim is not just a town of holidaymakers and second-homers. The town also houses schools, hosptials, banks, supermarkets, humdrum everyday businesses which give daily sustenance to humdrum everyday lives – nurses, orderlies, doctors, teachers, council workers, blue and white collar workers who keep the wheels of Didim’s 40,000 strong population well oiled in Turkey’s own indefatigable manner. These people are creating a stronger, deeper community from the roots of tourism. Historically towns grow around a single industry source, and the only way they can survive if these wobble is to diversify out from this single source.

Tourism is to Didim what steel manufacturing was to Sheffield. I saw the golf course as a serious step to diversifying away from the bucket and spade tourism into new markets.

The world may be in recession and people all over the globe are having to tighten their belts, but that does not stop a stupid decision being a stupid decision for the long term prosperity of a community as a whole.

I was having a little fantasy the other day while sat in the Didem language school awaiting the arrival of my Turkish teacher. The classroom overlooks the waste ground opposite the governor’s house – a dry and arid patch of prime land that floods in winter, and offers no active municipal use.  I have always been told that this area was to be the town ‘marching parade’, but to date nothing has been done with it.

In my fantasy I had the power to develop that waste ground into a thriving city centre park and covered summer/winter play area for kids of all ages, with tree covered walkways, shady tea gardens. In my fantasy it became a busy halfway house between town centre and beach resort which brought another dimension to Didim life.

There are so many more simple changes which I believe would make a world of difference to the town. As a Brit in possession of a kimlik, am I eligible to stand for mayor?

I would promise you one thing – I would make darn sure those men at the Ministry of Tourism thought again about scrapping our golf course.

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