Incentive and Congress Tourism Boosts In Turkey

By Müge Emirgil
Turkey’s tourism sector has undergone an accelerated rate of growth in the past three decades. In a sharp rise from the annual 500,000 visitors at the end of the 1970s, 2007 saw 24 million tourists visit the country (12 million of whom came from EU member states). Presently Turkey is the 8th most popular tourism destination in the world and would like to attract 40 million tourists annually. The sector has been boosted in many areas, including the hotel industry and travel agencies. In 2007, Turkey's tourism promotional budget was more than $100 million. For 2008, the budget will increase by 40%. Turkey is being advertised on  billboards, buses, taxis and in TV commercials all around the world since Jan. 15, 2008.
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Golden Horn Congress & Cultural Center.

The share of Convention Tourism in Turkey, which is now 200 million dollars, only 2% of the 10 billion dollars of the total tourism revenue, is tending to increase considerably. Every year, Istanbul hosts 100,000 people who travel for Convention Tourism. Convention Tourism, which is  an indispensable fact of the Industries and Regional Economies, is growing rapidly, especially in Turkey. At least 20 to 25 conventions are held in Turkey each year. These numbers are expected to explode after 2008 and the following years.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimates that by 2020, the number of global tourists will reach 1.6 billion, while the worldwide income from tourism will total up to US$2 trillion. This same report estimates that Turkey will see 27 million tourists in the year 2020. However, based on the country’s existing performance, the tourism sector itself places that figure much higher, anticipating a target profit of US$ 22 billion. Included in this projection is the rise of ‘congress tourism’, which is set to become one of the key contributors to the country’s tourism income.

THE STRONGEST CANDIDATES
Istanbul has hosted many important international fairs and congresses in recent years due to its specific location as a central spot both geographically and also culturally, functioning as a bridge between Asia and Europe. Therefore it is one of the most attractive cities for the professionals of congress tourism.

Istanbul has successfully organized international conferences such as the United Nations Habitat Conference, NATO Summit, AGIT Summit, International Union of Architects (IUA), Formula 1, the Eurovision Song Contest, CeBIT Informatics Fair, Autoshow, EMITT Tourism Fair, World Association of Newspapers (WAN), Forum Istanbul 2005, Turkish-German Businessmen Congress, Turkish-Arabic Business Forum, and thus has proved to the whole world that it has the necessary infrastructure and the technical hardware. Now the city is getting ready for the IRU 08 (International Road Union), 5th World Water Forum 09 and IMF 09 mega events.

Istanbul unites its natural beauties with its historical and cultural heritage and a modern infrastructure, ascending in world rankings as an increasingly popular choice for the world’s leading international associations and meeting planners.  Its historical and cultural heritage dating back to thousands of years, wonderful location on Bosphorus, beautiful and unique panoramic attractions, exciting leisure and cultural activities, incomparable Turkish cuisine, excellent hotels, resort and conference facilities, a perfect climate, and lesser cost are its great advantages compared to alternative destinations.  
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NATO Summit in Istanbul.

Istanbul also offers convenient transportation, with daily flights connecting the main cities of the United States of America, the  Middle East, and Asia to Istanbul’s “Atatürk International Airport”, which has a passenger capacity of 20 million annually and offers transfer connection to İzmir, Antalya and Ankara and direct flights to other destinations.  The charter airport “Sabiha Gökçen” is situated at the other end of the city.

Quite assertive with its first class hotels, fairs, congress and meetings halls, such as the Congress Valley and Golden Horn Congress & Cultural Center, the city has the capacity to meet all the demands of the sector within world standards.

CONGRESS VALLEY
The Istanbul Convention & Exhibition Center (ICEC) has everthing you need to organize memorable and successful congresses and exhibitions in the imperial city of Istanbul with a 2500-seat auditorium and the only place in Istanbul where 3,500 delegates can sit down together for a five-star gala dinner.

ICEC offers you an outstanding combination of state-of-the-art facilities and superior service. ICEC and its new Rumeli Fair & Exhibition Hall, which hosted the International Telecommunications Union's World Radiocommunications Conference 2000, are the centerpieces of a complete Conference Valley.

Offering more than 6,000 guest rooms within easy walking distance of ICEC, including 6 five-star hotels, the Conference Valley offers meeting planners unrivalled convenience and flexibility. The ICEC Complex was also designed to be flexible, and can accomodate events large and small, giving organizers the option of using the ICEC facility and the Rumeli Hall separately or together.

GOLDEN HORN CONGRESS & CULTURAL CENTER
At the heart of the Golden Horn is a commanding and unique view of İstanbul, reflecting the justificability of İstanbul’s desire of being a cultural capital in the international arena. Sütlüce Cultural Center, which can easily meet the expectations of very large organizations with special needs, is also unique in terms of ease of transportation.

Sütlüce Cultural Center is located in the midst of hotel regions such as Eminönü, Aksaray, Taksim, etc. and is conveniently situated for land, air and sea transportation. The facility, which  has a helicopter and a car park with the capacity for 700 vehicles, and several halls with a total dimension of 157,000 square meters, has been designed for multi-purpose use. The Center consists of The Exhibition and Meeting Building. The Theater Building, the Concert and Congress Building, and Cinema Halls. The two main auditoriums have a capacity of 3200 and 1200 seats respectively.

6 MORE CONVENTION CENTERS IN ANATOLIA
In addition to Istanbul with this great potential for congress tourism, a new convention center has been built in the resort town of Kuşadası, a sweet coastal summer place in the province of Aydın on the Aegean coast of Turkey.

The potential for congress tourism of many other regions in Anatolia will be revealed by the new convention centers that are under construction in the capital city of Turkey, Ankara, an important center with easy transport to great hotels and restaurants; the doorway to the Aegean region, İzmir with its palm trees and ancient ruins; another coastal summer place, Antalya, an attractive place for visitors during the whole year with sun, beautiful sandy beaches and ancient historical places; the home town of Rumi, Konya; and the biggest city of the Southestern Turkey,  Antep.

“BRIDGING DIVIDES FOR WATER”
The fifth World Water Forum organized by World Water Council every three years and also known as the “Water Olympics”, will be held between the dates of March 16-22, 2009 by The Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality State Water Works and Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration. This large gathering, to take place with the participation of 20,000 people, will be carried out by “Perl PCO”, a joint venture of VIP Tourism and Figür Tourism of Istanbul.
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Ceylan Pirinccioglu, President of VIP Tourism with Prof.Prof. Oktay Tabasaran.

Prof. Dr. Oktay Tabasaran, General Secretary of the 5th World Water Forum, stated that the World Water Forum is the most important international activity on water, emphasizing water-based problems and their ever increasing importance for human beings. 

The World Water Forum is a participation process open to everyone, which facilitates the influence of mutual discussions between multiple stakeholders on the formation of water policies on local, regional, national and international levels.

It is expected that 15 Presidents, 200 ministers, and mayors of major cities will participate in these conferences.  An aim for these conferences is to reach the “Istanbul Consensus” which is to be a joint declaration covering water and environmental issues. Almost 20 thousand experts, members of non governmental organizations and international institutions, representatives of governments, producers and consumers, ministers of environment and energy from 160 countries will come together in Istanbul, the city of “Water Civilization.”

The determination of subject of the 5th World Water Forum as “Bridging Divides for Water” is based on Turkey’s strategic position between East and West, North and South, different water cultures, conceptual differences between developed and developing countries and the need to bring different initiatives relating to water implemented at various locations of the world. Previously organized in 1997 in Marrakech, in 2000 in The Hague, in 2003 in Kyoto and in 2006 in Mexico with over 20,000 participants, a high number of participants from 160 countries are expected for World Water Forum, to be organized in Istanbul at the Golden Horn Congress & Cultural Center in Sütlüce.
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VIP TOURISM PLAYS A BIG PART
The CEO of VIP Tourism, the leading Partner of The Pearl PCO, Mr. Ceylan Pirinccioglu, stated that VIP Tourism has encouraged the Turkish tourist industry to change its vision of congress tourism and to apply a new approach to this field, which holds an extremely large market share in many of the world’s major cities. VIP Tourism aims to edge into the competitive market of the world’s congress cities.

The first large event VIP organized was the meeting of the International Association of Chambers of Commerce in 1969 at the Ataturk Cultural Center. The congress was attended by 1,250 people, which made it the largest conference hosted in the country’s history. Since then, VIP has successfully realized over 1,000 congresses. VIP has set its signature on one quarter of all the great congresses in Turkey in recent years.

The company has also been involved in the organization of governmental congress projects, including for the Foreign Ministry, as well as in other fields such as medicine, science, industry, business, construction and sports. The company appeared as a partner of the Consortium during the Habitat II UN Conference of Human Settlements, which drew 20,000 attendants, as well as at the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE-AGIT), the Chess Olympics, the Europe Urology Congress and the World Architecture Congress.

“We are actually seeing the results of the progress that we have made towards increasing our potential in Convention Tourism”, says Mr. Pirinccioglu, “The 5th World Water Forum is held triennially in different countries in the world.

Topics such as energy, the environment, sewerage and technology will be covered at this gigantic event, which is also called the ‘Water Olympics.’ We will also be organizing the annual IMF meeting in 2009. We have accomplished taking charge of ASTA’s 2010 EXPO, where I will represent Turkey, with the support of TURSAB in the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism. We, as VIP Tourism, are also organizing the 2nd Carrier Fair, 31st IRU (International Road Transportation Union) World Congress, 17th Quality Congress, 16th National Human Management Congress, 4th Medical Aesthetic and Anti Aging Congress and the Dermatological Surgery Days.”

40 YEARS EXPERIENCE
VIP Tourism is a service company run by a team of experts operating with a permanent staff of 100 and an extra 500 temporary workers. VIP has taken a proactive consulting approach to the management of travel and MICE services and developed individual and institutional relations with many national and international organizations and associations. By striving for the very best in every client interaction, in every task, VIP worked hard for 40 years to define its motto “Adds value.” The company’s strength is in its proven track record of delivering superior service with world-class travel products and MICE services and is well recognized for setting new service standards in Turkey.  It has the honor of being known as an industry pace and trend setter in Turkey.

(February 2008, Tourism Special Issue)

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