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9th Online Bilkent Tourism Forum: “After The Pandemic: A New Future”

The ninth Bilkent Tourism forum, organized by Bilkent University Department of Tourism and Hotel Management, was held online on December 10 on the Zoom this year. Traditionally organized by the department, a member of the Alliance by Institut Paul Bocuse, the forum was held this year with live connections and international participation established with 72 different countries.

The main aim of Bilkent Tourism Forum is to address the developments taking place in the world and in particular the tourism sector every year and to contribute to the development and promotion of tourism by drawing attention to the threats and opportunities facing the sector. The theme of the forum this year was inevitably determined as the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected the entire world and whose effects are largely still ongoing.

Keynote speeches at the forum were made by Erkan Uçar, Deputy Director of Bilkent University School of Applied Technology and Management, Prof. Abdullah Atalar, Rector of Bilkent University, Mustafa Erkayıran, Deputy Governor of Ankara and Özgül Özkan Yavuz, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. While the Deputy Governor of Ankara provided information about the support given to businesses adversely affected by the pandemic in Ankara, the Deputy Minister pointed out the immediate recovery measures taken to restart tourism in Turkey and digital transformations undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

At the forum, where H. E. Mrs. Phantipha Iamsudha, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand, was among the speakers, the Ambassador drew attention to four policies implemented in Thailand to reduce the negative effects of the Pandemic. Following the Ambassador, who listed these as safety and hygiene, environmental sustainability, extra experiences and yield, Bekir Ödemiş, Head of the Department of Culture and Natural Heritage of Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, won the appreciation of the participants with their work to protect Ankara’s cultural heritage during the pandemic.

In order to contribute as much as possible to the fight against this crisis in the tourism sector of our country, all the developments experienced in the pandemic process were noted and opportunities to adapt to changing market conditions in the tourism sector were investigated in the forum. Among the other speakers were Natalia Bayona United Nations World Tourism Organization Director of Innovation, Education and Investments, Dr. Erkan Yağcı Turkey Tourism Development and Promotion Agency Board Member, Teoman Tosun Onurair General Manager, Müberra Eresin President of Turkey Hoteliers Association, Somer Sivrioğlu MasterChef Turkey Jury Member, Marc O. Schumacher Ankara HiltonSA General Manager, Hakan Bayındır Turkey Travel Agencies Association Mersin Regional Chairman, Koray Şahmalı Founder of Icons & Styles Maxime Moise International Program Development Coordinator of Institut Paul Bocuse, Prof. Dr. Tomris Türmen President of the International Children’s Center Association and member of the Child-Friendly Tourism Advisory Board, Funda Eratıcı Hilton International Regional Sales Director and Hakan Özel Shangri-La Hotel Dubai General Manager.

In contrast to previous crises, it has been emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a development affecting all markets and destinations around the world and bringing travel and tourism activities to a standstill. It was also stated that the fight against this crisis, which has a global nature, is also global and requires extensive international cooperation, and emphasis was placed on innovation, digital transformation, and sustainability.