Istanbul – merging east and west, old and new

October 30, 2012 : General Team Building

It may be steeped in ancient history, culture and traditions but Istanbul is also becoming a destination of choice for the 21st century business traveller. Its nightlife, culture and food would rival anywhere in Europe or Asia, and as a cosmopolitan, forward-thinking city and business hub for many of Turkey’s international organisations the city is well used to dealing with corporate groups. Istanbul makes for a beguiling and unique destination for a staff incentive, with no end of exciting cultural, historical and contemporary sites and activities to excite and reward your staff.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited by Crawley-based Hunt & Palmer Destinationson a fam trip to Istanbul in October. The trip was prepared by Istanbul-based DMC Visitur Travel & Tourism Inc, and hosted by Visitur staff throughout. Visitur proved to be very professional and they have forged excellent relationships with some of the best hotels, venues and restaurants that Istanbul offers. The Visitur staff were excellent hosts, offering a warm welcome and attentive hospitality over the four days, whilst being able to ensure that all the elements of the trip were covered – despite the odd Istanbul traffic jam getting in the way!

High points of the trip for me, and things to consider for any incentive trip, were the following:

  • 5-star accommodation at the brand newRenaissance Istanbul Bosphorous for the duration of the stay. An ideal location, sporting the latest green venue credentials, from which an incentive group could explore the city.
  • Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, a venue offering great business meeting facilities and overlooking the Bosphorus and the Besiktes Football Stadium
  • The opulence and elegance of the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel, located on the banks of the Bosphorus. As an evening venue to impress any incentive group, this is second to none, with the facility to welcome groups arriving by boat
  • Boat trip to Maiden’s Tower – a Byzantine fortress – for evening meal with torch singer jazz accompaniment
  • Walking tour in the Old City – visiting the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (the ‘eighth wonder of the world’), as well as the Topkapi Palace Museum. A unique historical and cultural experience
  • Boat trip across to Suada Galatasaray Island – an island between two continents set in the middle of the Bosphorus with a 360 degree panoramic view of Istanbul – for an exceptional seafood lunch at G-Balik
  • Free time to browse in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar – home to over 4000 shops and 60 alleyways – and one of the key locations in the new Bond film Skyfall. The Grand Bazaar would be a great location for a Wildgoose City Explorer,Spycatcher or The Apprentice treasure hunt team event, followed by a relaxing traditional Turkish Bath experience atCemberlitas Hamami
  • Drinks on the skyline terrace at Swissotel The Bosphorous – one of the city’s biggest hotels with over 600 bedrooms and extensive meeting facilities
  • The best Turkish Kebab ever at Venge restaurant!

All in all the level and quality of the venues, hospitality, food and service provided were excellent. I would strongly recommend Istanbul as an easy to get to, affordable and excitingly different incentive destination, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss your interest in organising an itinerary for your staff in 2013.


For the incentive market I would suggest spending two days uncovering the historical, traditional and cultural parts of the city, taking in restaurants such as NAR Restaurant, and Frankie situated in the boutique-style Sofa Hotel, coupled with a day of outdoor activities such as a boat trip on the Bosphorus, or themed GPS-enabled treasure hunt around the Grand Bazaar area, to give your guests a truly memorable Istanbul experience

Need to know

  • Istanbul is home to 13.4 million inhabitants – with Turks, Greeks, Armenian and Jewish all living in harmony. English is widely spoken in restaurants and hotels and across its various tourist locations and the climate is particularly favourable in October.
  • Although Turkey is 98% Muslim, Istanbul is still the capital of the Orthodox world
  • Istanbul has a strait of water running through it – the Bosphorus – which forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia and links the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. There are no beaches there though – just as well hotel outdoor swimming pools are in plentiful supply!
  • Direct, short-haul flights (3.5 hours) are now available from Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester (Turkish Airlines and easyjet)
  • Current exchange rates mean the GBP fairs well against the Turkish Lira, so as an incentive destination Istanbul is sure to please even the Finance Director!

If you are interested in hosting an event in Istanbul then please do get in touch – we would be delighted to introduce you to this fantastic incentive destination. Call us on 0845 901 1422 or send us an enquiry.

Maximillion designs Reward and Incentive programmes which aim to enhance performance through a well designed, structured and communicated campaign, culminating in a fabulous travel experience at home or overseas. Learn more here…

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