Could you give us a brief overview of your background and how did you start your career in the Meeting Industry?
I studied communication and advertising at the university and I am currently writing my doctorate thesis on destination promotion and strategic use of public relations. My professional career started in the media industry and I was introduced to hospitality business in 1997 and worked as the PR and Corporate Communication Manager of the largest national hotel chain of Turkey and in 2001 I joined the Istanbul Convention & Visitors Bureau team as sales manager. I was promoted to General Manager of the Istanbul CVB in 2011 and worked at the bureau until 2014. During this period I actively joined industry organizations: ICCA Mediterranean Chapter Chairperson, ECM- European Cities Marketing Board Member and PCMA Global Task Force Member. Now I am the President Elect of MPI Turkey Chapter and Board Member of Skal Int. Istanbul Club. On the professional side, I am the General Coordinator of Kalyon Tourism Group with 50 years of experience in the Turkish tourism and hospitality industry. I am so happy to be involved in so many different ways in the meeting and hospitality industry.
How has your active MPI membership affected your professional career?
I motivate myself with education and networking and it is very important for me to take responsibilities for the present and the future of the industry that I am involved with. I am an MPI member since 2011 and MPI gives me the chance to give back to my industry and do something for my sector and my personal career development. I meet with my industry peers from all around the world and keep myself aware and up to date of the meeting industry. MPI membership gives a great opportunity for leadership at a national and international level.
You attended The European Chapter Business Summit in Copenhagen. In your opinion, what are the main takeaways of that experience?
First I very much enjoyed playing with the Legos! Indeed the Lego serious play was a very good edutainment activity with personal and professional takeaways. MPI education programs gives me the opportunity to question and analyze myself and also learn something new to adapt to my clients, events and meetings. From the chapter point of view, ECBS is always a great place to hear about other chapters experiences and discuss about the challenges we all have and the opportunities as well.
What is the value for you to be a chapter leader volunteering for board position?
First of all I really love to be a volunteer. Such positions are very important for personal development and improving your leadership skills. It gives a great chance for networking and build a reputation. But they are also difficult as they require lots of time and responsibilities. Especially being the President is a hard task and we should all work to raise the MPI Turkey Chapter and MPI brand in Turkey. I would like to add something very personal: starting from my childhood until the early times of professional career, I was always interested in politics and had plans to become a politician. After some years I decided that the political environment nowadays is not for me and I changed my direction to the social and civil society and volunteering for a leadership positions has given me more personal satisfaction then becoming a boring politician.
The MPI Turkey Club has now become a Chapter. What are the chapter’s main goals for 2016?
Our region is facing some difficult times at the moment and our industry is the first one being negatively affected. We all have serious duties about keeping our businesses in good position but MPI Turkey Chapter and its members can take an active role during such challenging times. Membership is the first thing for all organizations and we will be actively working as Board on membership programs. We need to create more networking for our members and also create joint activities with other sector organizations including corporate clients networks and universities. The meeting industry is fast growing in our region and even despite the crisis we are having difficulty in finding young leaders and professionals for our companies. We are all event people and we believe in the power of events. We are planning to create an annual event for MPI Turkey Chapter in 2016 or early 2017. We need more platforms to introduce MPI Turkey Chapter to Turkish meeting and hospitality professionals.
Tell us more about activities and events organized by the MPI Turkey Chapter.
In March we will have an important event: Ace of Mice - Congress, Meeting and Event Industry Exhibition. For 3 years Ace of Mice Exhibition has been held in Istanbul and in such a short time it became an important exhibition and networking platform for the event and meeting industry in Turkey. Ace of Mice gathers corporate and association planners from the region and all around the world. Turkey is not only an important player in the meeting industry as a destination but it is also an important player as a growing buyer market for the international destinations. Turkish corporations and associations are organizing important events all around the world and Ace of Mice is the only platform in Turkey that brings all the industry stakeholders together. It is a great opportunity for European destinations to meet the Turkish buying market. Thanks to the hosted buyers program international planners will be hosted in Istanbul between 16-18 March. In cooperation with MPI International and MPI Turkey Chapter an MPI educational session will be held at the Speakers Corner of Ace of Mice: Bernard Gracia (Dean & Director at the EIPM) will speak on “Event Purchasing”. MPI Turkey Chapter will also have a booth at the Ace of Mice exhibition and we look forward to welcoming our European colleagues at the show and our stand.
Interview with Elif Balci Fisunoglu.