The Turkish tourism industry, represented by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, TURSAB the Association of Turkish Travel Agents, the Intra Turkey Tourism Group, TUROB the Touristic Hotels & Investors Association, and Turkish Airlines, demonstrated hospitality at its finest to wow the 90-plus Irish travel industry delegates, including representatives of around 35 Irish travel agencies, who attended the ITAA Conference held in Istanbul this weekend.
It was surprising, to say the least, that few of the delegates had been to Istanbul previously. This must say something about the Irish travel industry itself, when Istanbul is the third largest city in Europe (with a population of around 15 million), the only city in the world that spans two continents (Europe and Asia), and has an 8,500-year history, including that of three great empires (Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman).
With Turkish Airlines currently providing daily non-stop flights from Dublin to Istanbul – a 3,000km, four-hour flight – and increasing to 10 flights weekly from next April, this fascinating city has much to offer clients as a city break with a different flavour – in more than its cuisine!
Where else, for example, can agents offer a ‘shopping market’ such as the Grand Bazaar? This 30,000 sq m complex has more than 60 streets, 6,000 shops and craftsmen’s ateliers, and employs more than 30,000 people. Visitors should bring their credit cards, but watch their wallets, and be prepared to haggle (and enjoy doing so) for several hours.
Other top visitor attractions enjoyed by the delegates included the Topkapi Palace and the Sultanahmet Mosque (or Blue Mosque) in Fatih on the European side of the city, a Bosphorus cruise, and the Adile Sultan Palace at Kandilli on the Asian side.
The last-mentioned attraction was the venue for the conference Gala Dinner, hosted by TURSAB the Association of Turkish Travel Agents. Two other great restaurants enjoyed by the delegates were the G Balik, in the middle of the Bosphorus near Suada, for a dinner hosted by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Nar Gourmet Restaurant, for a superb lunch hosted by the Intra Turkey Tourism Group.
All this and more, including welcome drinks jointly sponsored by Amadeus and Travelport, combined to make an all-too-short visit to Istanbul that was greatly enjoyed by the delegates.