Embarking on her career in 1994 in the communications field, Elif Balcı Fisunoğlu worked at TRT Istanbul Television. In 1997, she began work at Dedeman Holding, operating in the tourism industry. From 2001 to 2014, she served at the Istanbul Convention and Visitors Bureau (ICVB). Playing active roles at international industry organizations, Fisunoğlu also served as the President of the ICCA Med. Chapter and she was also a Board Member at European Cities Marketing (ECM). Fisunoğlu is the President of the Turkish Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and General Coordinator of the Kalyon Tourism Group, which owns the Kalyon Hotel Istanbul, the Kalyon Çeşme Hotel, the Reji Event Venue, and the Kalyon Tourism and Travel Agency.
What are MPI Turkey’s highlights this year?
In 2017 we are hosting some specialized events, but as you can probably tell the meetings industry, as well as the tourism industry is going through some tough times right now. When we compare what our tourism sector has achieved in the past 15 years to the current situation you can see that we have some financial issues that need fixing. It’s times like this that we acknowledge the importance of international networks and local communities like MPI, which volunteer and devote their time to such issues. We’ve had many discussions about overcoming the crisis with our colleagues and we believe taking a positive and active approach is the only way to go during this period. MPI has been very active since its very beginnings in 2011 and although we are a young chapter, our team has grown into a strong and capable community. One of our successes was also hosting the European EMEC in 2014.
“Istanbul is a strong destination with great infrastructure, a strong local economy, international associations and multinational companies. People are starting to receive the positive messages and we know the corporate clients and visitors will start coming back very quickly.”
You are organized as a chapter? How many members do you have?
Yes, we are a chapter. At the moment, we have over 20 members, but our team has slimmed down in the last couple of years. MPI is still trying to become more active and more renowned within Europe and that is one of our main missions. The other one is establishing a local community, which I found is very important, when I became a member of MPI.
MPI is not only focused on suppliers, but also meeting friends and colleagues. What about meeting planners?
We are trying to encourage corporate clients to become members of MPI and encourage networking with them. MPI’s educational segment is internationally very strong and our corporate clients have been showing great interest in educational events. Our MPI team is attending this year’s IMEX as a hosted buyer and after it ends we are planning to have a big educational event, where we will host Turkish members of different associations. I believe it will be more sustainable for the suppliers to have the opportunity of coming together with the corporate world. I believe our educational activities are very important for creating a bigger network with different players of the industry while also helping create a better educational platform. The priority for me is to create a platform that will bring together local suppliers and local buyers.
How do you see Istanbul’s meeting industry scene in 2017?
I think 2017 won’t be the best year for Istanbul, as we have had some difficulties and big challenges in the past couple of years. But nevertheless Istanbul is a strong destination with great infrastructure, a strong local economy, international associations and multinational companies. I believe it will get back on its feet soon. People are starting to receive the positive messages and we know the corporate clients and visitors will start coming back very quickly. The association market will, because of its nature, take a little more time but we have to be positive. We need to fight the negative perception with a great amount of positivity.
MPI Global, SITE and ICCA are sending this positive message to the world so you are already part of the solution?
Yes, and we are trying to become closer with SITE. MPI and SITE Global are organizing their event next year together in Rome and it will be a chance for us to work on behalf of our destination with Istanbul Convention Bureau to promote Istanbul. We are already part of MPI’s international network with 17 000 members and the same is with SITE. It’s time for Turkish tourism and meetings industry professionals to create a positive message and start delivering it to the rest world.
What are the biggest opportunities you see for Istanbul’s meetings industry? Do you believe in the importance of creativity in the business world?