We would like to send our greetings to all local stakeholders from Kızkalesi who agreed to meet us and share with us their stories, problems, and ideas, namely: Yusuf Çelik (Manager, Has Hotel), Mevlüt Erzurum (Manager of Okan Apart Hotel), Nur Kaya (Manager of Barbaros Hotel), İbrahim Kale (Manager of Etap Hotel), Natık Çoban (Çobanbey Real Estate), Mehmet Şirin Öztop (Owner of Rain Hotel and Rain Garden Restaurant), Murat Kale (Mukhtar of Kızkalesi Neighborhood), Ali Rıza Eren (Kızkalesi Representative of DHA News Agency), and Halit Öztop (Manager of Rain Garden Restaurant). The meeting was organized in Rain Garden Restaurant in Kızkalesi on December 7, 2021. The discussion was moderated by Yasemin Sarıkaya Levent and Tolga Levent from Mersin University, Faculty of Architecture.
Local stakeholders from Kızkalesi emphasized that they appreciate interest of SPOT project team in their problems and issues. They were really eager to know more details about the project to better understand benefits they can have when cooperating with us.
Issues of tourism development and tourism planning in Kızkalesi
The first issue locals mentioned is the seasonal demographical changes. The winter population of the settlement is about 3,000 people, whereas it increases up to 60,000 people during high season. This huge increase of population in high season results in insufficiencies in technical infrastructure. Infrastructural problems related to delivering drinking water and sewerage in high tourism season (4 months per year) are main challenges to be solved by local administrations. Despite there is a developed sewerage refinement unit in the neighborhood, the capacity of the sewerage system network creates problems. The network of drinking water system is old. The second infrastructural problem relates to transportation accessibility, as there is only one road connecting Kızkalesi with Mersin and then Adana airport. Duration of trips from Adana airport to Kızkalesi is long especially for international tourists. Moreover, from internal perspective, development of car parking areas is demanded. During high season both infrastructure effectiveness and capacity of local accommodation facilities are insufficient from the perspective of high demand.
Locals also emphasized institutional issues: no strategy, no master plan to differentiate tourism activities across the space, no organization to represent their interests as well as to manage and promote their initiatives. They did not identify conflicts between locals and local authorities. However, after the disbandment of the municipality in 2014, some issues of local management should be underlined related mainly on delays of provision of various services. Crime related problems have already been solved by placing surveillance cameras along the beach and sending to the area additional police supporting local forces during high tourism season.
Locals identified that their contribution to regional development is significant, also from promotional perspective – Kızkalesi is used as a core regional brand attracting both tourists and investors. On the other hand, they do not get much back as public investments. As thus, they fill disappointed by that way of regional policy.
Locals have no power and no authority to run all activities requested to solve their problems. However, still they want to discuss and propose some ideas. They were aware that sea and sun is the main tourism activity in the area, yet they want to diversify tourism activities by introducing alternative types of tourism like sport tourism, bird watching, international festivals (stopped unfortunately by Covid-19 pandemic). To extend season all through the year they proposed to establish a vocational school in cooperation with Mersin University for the winter periods. The second idea is to build a sport complex especially for amateur sport clubs. They believe that this sport complex could also be beneficial for locals especially for young people. To increase the profitability of tourism, locals try to attract international tourism, not only domestic one. Aiming this, they are aware of the need to increase the quality of tourism service facilities in the region instead of quantitative growth.
Locals also emphasized that the main natural resource they use are beaches – home of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Unfortunately, due to environmental changes due to floods, the structure of beaches has changed. It becomes rockier under the sand. Those thin layer of sand on beach makes beaches less attractive for turtles. Yet, locals mentioned that Göksu Wetland in Silifke has natural beaches used by sea turtles, as well as by different types of migratory birds. For Kızkalesi local stakeholders it is difficult to imagine the situation that tourism disappears. Thus, they do not consider alternatives for tourism. However, along with tourism, most of the locals deals with agriculture, especially citrus, olive and vegetable production. Thus, hotel owners are farmers in the same time. When looking at the history of region’s development, tourism was preceded by agriculture and husbandry.