Ünal Çağıner, one of the pioneers of the tourism sector in Northern Cyprus, is a success story that has turned into a giant tourism investment from a few bungalows to two thousand beds... Mr. Ünal has a spirit of entrepreneurship and all has to learn from what he has to say.
“We must know the value of this country ... Let's love and protect each other. Let's prepare our economy and competitiveness as if there will be a solution at every moment. Let's manage more rationally. The future of our country is tourism.”
Ünal Çağıner, one of the pioneers of tourism sector in Northern Cyprus, turned into a unique treasure for the tourism journey which started in 1977 and equipped with priceless works in 42 years.
This is a success story that has turned into a giant tourism investment in the area of six and a half miles in the Çatalköy region and from a few bungalows to 2 thousand beds.
In the 1970s, it was not everyone's fee to think about tourism and target investments. There Mr. Ünal was able to become Ünal Çağıner. He was loved and counted for having left his mark on this land. Spending day and night with tourism has reached his goals.
Starting his tourism investments with Akgünler Tourism, he finalised with Acapulco Holiday Village. For about forty years, when “holiday” is said, in our country, Acapulco comes first.
Akgünler Tourism and Maritime, Acapulco Hotel and Tarsan Farm, which are offered to our country by Ünal Çağıner, have a volume of employment over a thousand people, are the source of pride for our country as a very important tourism investments. I would like to share this interview with North Cyprus UK Newspaper this month, the courageous heart of tourism, brave heart Ünal Çağıner. Mr. Ünal is the spirit of entrepreneurship and we all have to learn from what he has to say.
Of course the name Ünal Çağıner is know by everyone in North Cyprus. But can you tell us about yourself when we start our conversation?
In 1946, I was born in Malya. My father was from the village Malya and my mum was from the village Evdim. My first childhood was spent in Malya. Then in 1952 my family had to migrate to Ciyas Pirasgosu. After living there for three years, I lived in Evrim Pirasgos between 1955-63. In the 1963 - 74 period, we lived in Evdim. After 1974, we settled in Kyrenia. It was easy to say, we had to migrate five times in 28 years between 1946 and 1974. Therefore, the Cyprus Problem did not begin in 1974. This problem has been since the 1950s. The British administration registering the Turks as police, my father in 1957 became a police. My mother was a housewife.
Everything starts with a dream. How did you meet with tourism?
I dreamed of making tourism under the difficult conditions of Cyprus. In 1972, I bought 24 acres of land in the sea of Evdim. Right next to that land, there are 350 acres of foundation land, which we can call the adjacent. We had a holiday village project with our friends. Until 1974, the project work continued. Due to 1974 events, we were unable to implement our project. Tourism Cooperative, which we established with 12 partners for tourism purposes, is still registered in the comparison of companies in the south. In those years, I was working as an Air Estimator on English bases. In 1969, after graduating from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Ankara, I worked in English bases for almost four years between 1970 and 74. Guessing the correct weather condition is my talent from that time. It was a good work experience for me. After 1974, we moved to Kyrenia. I served as a public officer for about a year (6 months finance, 6 months ministry of housing). I saw that this civil service was not a business for me. I resigned from the position of civil servants, I was put into business. Together with my brothers and sisters, we established Akgünler Trading Company. We launched the idea of Akgünler Market. In January of 1977, at the age of 31, Akgünler tourism was established and I took my first steps in tourism which was my dream.
Why the name Akgünler?
Akgünler name in 1974, it was an expression Bülent Ecevit the Republic of Turkey Prime Minister used. We were all very impressed by Ecevit's courage in the Cyprus Peace Operation. Our company's name comes from his discourse. Akgünler, in the 1970s and 80s made huge tourism operations. It is Cyprus’ one of the first agencies in tourism history. In those years, there were hotels like Dome, Celebrity, Mare Monte, Salamis, Rocks and Dorana. Mainly, we were working with Turkey market. We were doing 70% of Northern Cyprus tourism.
How was Acapulco formed and how did it evolve over the years? Where does the name come from?
Acapulco's name comes from Acapulco, the famous tourist paradise of Mexico. Founded in Acapulco, known as 6.5 miles, from 1978 to 1982, I worked restaurants and beaches. At that time, there was no infrastructure, electricity and water in this area. I made a small pool near the restaurant. Since there was no electricity, I brought ice from the ice factory in Nicosia and put it in the pool. So I kept coke and other drinks cold.
We established Acapulco in 1982 with 50 bungalows. In this way, I have also changed from agency to hotel management. In those years, many people laughed at me for investing outside of Kyrenia. However, I believed that Kyrenia could grow with its surroundings. In those years, this place, called ‘nobody comes’, became a center of attraction today. In the early years, German and Austrian tourists began to choose us. I remember very well that in 1983, 80% of the facility was Austrian. Over time, we expanded to 229 bungalows and 52 hotel rooms. We have increased the number of hotel rooms to 660 with the hotel project we have carried out recently. Currently, the number of beds in Acapulco is around 2,000.
Are there new investment projects?
Since the establishment of Acapulco, construction has not stopped in this region for about forty years. As long as I'm alive it will continue. Investing is an illness. We made a very ambitious investment in congress tourism, luna park, new beach bar area, sports fields, swimming pools and finally health-spa area. We will continue to produce new projects. In the island economies, tourism comes first.Besides tourism-based agricultural production, we should aim for light industry based on tourism. We apply this in our own business.
What kind of message would you like to give to the community?
We live in a beautiful country with its nature and people. Let us know the value of this country. The biggest mistake made in the past was the process of immaturity of the CTA (Cyprus Turkish Airlines). I believe that every country should have its own airways. Let's love and protect each other. Let's prepare our economy and competitiveness as if there will be a solution at every moment. Let's manage more rationally. The future of our country is tourism.