Project Discovery Diary: Turkey
Volunteer Names: Vicky Manning and Sarah Hillman
Job Titles: Pricing and Early Trading Manager and Project Manager
Project Discovery Location: Turkey
Assignment: To learn about the Taste of Fethiye project, find out how it’s being supported by customers, farmers and hoteliers in the region, and plan how to move the project forward.
Getting a Taste of Fethiye
Every year a group of Thomson employees gets the amazing opportunity to volunteer for a charity called the Travel Foundation. The charity promotes sustainable tourism for local environments and communities in areas popular with tourists. And this year, we were part of that group.
We went out to Turkey to support a project called Taste of Fethiye. It aims to support local farmers to grow fruit and vegetables to supply to hotels in the area, which means they see a direct benefit from tourism in Fethiye.
The Travel Foundation has been running the project since 2010 with great success – 22 farms in the region are currently taking part. Our task was to talk to customers, farmers and hoteliers to find out how the project is going so far, and to plan how best to move Taste of Fethiye forward.
Meeting local farmers (and some familiar faces)
29 of our holiday shop staff in the UK have been appointed as sustainability experts, and they were already in Turkey to learn about some of the initiatives Thomson is involved in. So, as soon as we arrived we tagged along with them to explore some local farms.
The first farm we visited was in a village called Kayakoy. It’s where some of the tomatoes, figs, peppers and aubergines are produced as part of Taste of Fethiye. The next farm on the list was high up in the hills of Arpacik. The owners’ main source of income is through growing cherries, so we rolled up our sleeves and helped out with the cherry harvest. Through Taste of Fethiye, they’ve also been able to diversify as they’ve been given a greenhouse to grow tomatoes in – no less than 2,500 of them!
Talking to local hoteliers
As a way to promote the project to guests, participating hotels put on Taste of Fethiye evenings. They serve up locally sourced fruit and vegetables to customers and educate them about the benefits. We had a chance to see the event in full swing at the Montana Pine Resort in Olu Deniz. It’s part of Thomson’s Platinum range, and has been involved with Taste of Fethiye for the past 2 years. We also went to Taste of Fethiye evenings at the Belcekiz Beach hotel, Karbel hotel and Pine Valley hotel.
Quizzing our customers
Another part of our time in Turkey was spent surveying customers. We wanted to understand their perceptions of where hotels source their food from, and how much they valued locally and sustainably produced fruit and veg. We also spoke with hotel managers to get their views, so that we could create action plans for each hotel. Last but not least, we spoke to staff in resort – from Holiday Advisors to airport transfer reps.
Getting to know the region of Fethiye
We felt it was really important to get to know the local area while we were visiting, so we set some time aside to explore. We followed one of the Travel Foundation’s Village Routes to a small village for a traditional Turkish breakfast. It was amazing – about 30 dishes were delivered to our table and we could eat as much as we liked, and stay as long as we liked. Definitely not breakfast in a hurry!
We also visited the famous Blue Lagoon (after Sarah had a go at paragliding) in Olu Deniz, and set off on Thomson’s Landrover Safari. After 2 weeks getting to know this beautiful region and the people in it, we were really sad to leave. But we’ve come home with some invaluable information and brilliant ideas for encouraging hotels and local farmers to work even more closely together in the future.