Renown creative event planner Tahira Endean's take on Istanbul!
Historical elegance. Modern sensibilities. Captivating. There are no words to fully describe all that Istanbul is. I have wanted to come to Turkey my whole life. It was the birthplace of my most exotic and elegant relative, Auntie Suna, and when I had not just one, but two opportunities to come here in 2019, I was thrilled. It truly is everything you would want in an incentive destination as a planner, and one that will leave participants expecting an aspirational reward trip deeply satisfied with their time and the memories that come from this.
Surprising to many whose expectations will be shattered from the moment they land at the world’s newest, largest airport and enjoy a speedy transfer into the downtown core. Even this will cause your head to turn, as you pass an Ottoman Empire palace on one side and the Vodafone stadium on the other. Luxury stores are as easily found as traditional markets filled with spices, teas and a plethora of exotic dried fruit, and every corner brings new sights.
Then there is the food. In events, we struggle with balancing nutrition and dietary concerns, and serving flood that meets the FLOSS – fresh, local, organic, seasonal, sustainable – criteria. Until you come to a land that has been producing its own FLOSS cuisine and wine for literally thousands of years. Food is plentiful and delicious, much of it plant-based and always made fresh daily, and as you identify guest’s needs, the innate hospitality of the people here has them delivering what is needed, with a smile.
Incentive programs require a balance of comfort from the first touchpoint to the last, and Istanbul delivers. A warm greeting by staff holding not just a sign, but flowers and a welcome package, with a warm smile as they take your bag and guide you to your waiting transportation. Delivery to a luxury hotel is the next step, with as many to choose from as you would expect to find in any world-class city. Many of these are on or overlooking the Bosphorus, the beating heart that both divides and connects the European and Asian sides of the city. Unique to any city in the world, this cultural bridge underlies the mosaic that makes up the experiences your participants will enjoy.
Destination as a bucket list item – check. Venues that are unexpected and range from former bathhouses to luxury yachts, private homes filled with stories and treasures, palaces and mosques, parks and patios, each day offers something new. As a cradle of civilization, every detail you offer your participants comes with a richness in story and does what we want with travel, it provides perspective and offers a transformative viewpoint. You cannot experience Istanbul and leave untouched, with assumptions set aside, and a suitcase full of artisinal treasure in hand.