Sam Robson Group Events Director at The Appointment Group, gives her view of the Turkish capital as a MICE destinationKnown as the city where Europe meets Asia across the Bosphorus, Istanbul is also the meeting of ancient history and super cool – and an ideal location for both conference and reward events. A huge, bustling city with a population over 15m, it is just a three-and-a-half hour flight from London with British Airways, Turkish Airlines and low cost carriers flying several times each day.
Established hotel brands, such as the Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, Conrad Istanbul and the Swissotel The Bosphorus, offer large flexible meeting and product launch spaces, while the St Regis Istanbul, Park Hyatt Istanbul – Maçka Palas and both Four Seasons properties cater perfectly for smaller groups and incentives.
Take your guests by boat from the airport to the private pier at the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus to create the perfect start to your event whilst avoiding the city’s busy traffic.
Our preferred DMC, MEP Destination Business Solutions, suggests that a three-night event can offer a perfect time for both work and pleasure. The historical sites of Hagia Sophia, originally built in 500AD, and the Blue Mosque with a private guide should be top of a programme of visits. Enjoy the Grand Bazaar if you have more time, where, with some local inside help, guests can be creative with a silversmith or experience the inner workings of the market. It’s the perfect city to wander around, bartering with street sellers for the distinctive glass blue ‘eyes’ called Nazar Boncugu, intended to protect against jealousy. But remind guests to carry a map if they do.
Sampling the delights of dinner and drinks at a traditional meyhane followed by dancing in an open air club jutting into the Bosphorus shows both conference delegates and award winners the best of traditional and cool Istanbul.
Birgül Özden, President of MEP, recommends starting the next day with a private breakfast in the Cistern of 1,001 columns and ending with dinner in one of the city’s jaw-dropping roof terraces or a privately owned riverside mansion.
Adding a fourth night gives the option of a trip to Cappadocia, Turkey’s land of fairy chimneys, just 75 minutes’ flight from one of Istanbul’s two (soon to be three) airports. Conical pink rock formations create a backdrop to an amazing location with cave churches, an underground city and hotels carved into the soft volcanic rock. A balloon ride at dawn is the perfect way to view this striking landscape.
April, the first two weeks in July and October are ideal months for hosting events in Istanbul, avoiding peak season. The temperature is always comfortable in the city, with an average maximum of 27 Celsius in August.
This warm climate, along with the fascinating culture, striking architecture, stunning river vistas and good facilities, make Istanbul the ideal location to create a memorable experience for guests. But they had better take a Nazar Boncugu home with them, as their colleagues are bound to be just a bit jealous.
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