Burcin Turkkan, President of Skål International, at Expo Turismo Internacional (Panama)

Burcin Turkkan attends Expo Turismo Internacional (Panama)

The opening speech of the event was given by Burcin Turkkan, President of Skål International, who introduced Skål International to the audience and addressed topics such as trends in global tourism.

We share the speech below: 

"Buenos días, gente linda de Panama y compañeros de la industria  del turismo. Gracias por su increíble hospitalidad. Debo decir que Panama se siente como en casa, lejos de casa. Es mi primera vez, pero les puedo asegurar que no será la última, volveré pronto.

Good morning.

It is my honor and pleasure to be with you at 2022  Expo Turismo Panama.

I would like to acknowledge Ivan Eskildsen, Minister of Tourism of Panama, Jose Ramon Icaza, President of Panama Chamber of Commerce, Monique St. Malo, President Expo Turismo Trade Show Committee, Demetrio Maduro, Skål International Panama President, and my fellow Skål International Executive Board Member, Annette Cardenas – Director of Skål International.

Today I am standing in front of you as the World President of Skål International.
But some of you may wonder, what is Skål International? 

Skål International is the only professional organization promoting global Tourism and friendship while uniting all sectors of the Tourism industry. The Association officially Founded in 1934, however the Skål movement began in 1932 with the founding of the first club of Paris, promoted by the friendship arising between a group of Parisian Travel Agents. They were invited by several transport companies to the presentation of a new aircraft destined for the Amsterdam-Copenhagen-Malmo flight. 

Skål International has existed for 9 decades now, and our first club Skål International Paris is celebrating its 90th anniversary in July 2022. Its more than 12092 members, entailing of industry's Managers and Executives, meet at local, national, regional and international levels to do business among friends throughout more than 317 Skål International  clubs among 101 countries. 

In Latin America Skål International movement started in the early 60s with the involvement of Skål International clubs in Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Peru. 

Skål International has enduring partnerships and affiliations with several like-minded organizations eager to help drive global change and cooperate closely on matters of mutual interest to achieve common objectives. Some of the organizations we work with closely are UNWTO, WTTC, Ecpat/The Code, PATA, IIPT, OCTP, Sustainable Travel International. 
At Skål International - the key principles are doing business among friends while connecting tourism globally. As a Skal member, I have over 12000 friends or potential partners that I could approach to do business with! Isn't that exciting!

The past two years have been hard on us all due to the pandemic. The travel and tourism industry has been hit the hardest among all industries. The pandemic has changed and continues to change many balances and how we operate and do business. Right after the pandemic, our industry is now facing difficulties due to the armed conflict due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. 

Currently, Skål International is working hard to show solidarity and support our clubs on the border of Ukraine with the humanitarian support they are offering to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees crossing the borders in Europe. Skål International, a nonprofit professional organization promoting global tourism and friendship, uniting all sectors of the tourism industry without the influence of political issues, is against any form of aggression, endangering the people's freedom and human rights and condemning the people the aggression. 

We have recently started seeing and reading about 'change management' future work' and Reengineering following the pandemic. All these are discussed due to the changes we have seen because of the pandemic, and how we do business has changed and will possibly change further.

Based on recent research conducted by EHL (Ecole Hotelier De Lausanne), here are 6 trends that have reshaped (and are still reshaping) the industry.

#1 - Automation & technology / Digitalized – contactless guest experiences 

Apps are increasingly important in the way hoteliers manage the services they provide to their customers and now can control many aspects of the guest cycle and experience. We see widespread use of technology-assisted options, such as mobile check-in, contactless payments, voice control, and biometrics. AI-powered chatbots have proven to be a customer service asset both during the booking process and in responding to the questions coming from customers. 

#2 - Personalization

Today's guests expect to be recognized and treated as individuals. Establishments are going the extra mile to greet their guests personally, they use technology software/tools for personalized e-mail marketing allowing access to the masses; far beyond simply adding the customer's name to email greetings, data provides insight into past buying habits, enabling hotels to tailor their offers and promotions and automatically provide similar services to previous stays.

#3 - Experience economy & essentialism 

Customers request personalization, unique experiences, and so on. This could very well lead to the rise of the independent traveler. Unique experiences that give back to local communities in meaningful ways are in demand, as are niche properties, adventurous holidays, and relaxation retreats.

#4 - Generations X and Y

These new generations have different requirements and needs compared to older generations. "Older generations think about hotels and car rentals. Younger generations think about Airbnb and Uber." As this generation also likes to travel solo to make them feel comfortable, interior design choices are being adjusted to evoke a sense of homeliness and an informal atmosphere cultivated 

#5 - Sustainability

People are becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental and social issues. Consumers are now well-aware that window-dressing exists, and they will not buy it.

#6 - Virtual & augmented reality 

Since the orientation is towards visually appealing content, we also see features such as virtual tours, conjuring up a digital environment for consumers to picture themselves in. Videos providing 360-degree views are the big thing like showing 360-degree views of restaurant ambiance, lovely little café terraces enveloped in greenery, or beachfront hotel locations. 

What does today hold for the industry? 

To survive in today's travel market with changing trends, the need for industry professionals is to properly embrace the trends mentioned above and understand what's at stake is essential.

We can say that standardization can no longer be the norm. It is becoming critical to personalize and tailor the services to travelers' needs and preferences. More customization and specialization may enable increased value creation for hospitality companies. Today for businesses, it is important to exploit technology as an accelerator for business. Technology will be at the core of the travel experience before and after a trip. This will lead to the development of new concepts and more innovation in the industry and contribute to the emergence of an ever more individualized offer. And social responsibility is a moral and an economic obligation today. The impact of global warming is discussed everywhere. It is thus critical not only for governments but also for corporations to become more sustainable: "not just green, but real, sustainable business models".

This pandemic has shown us that the tourism industry is prone to crises. So It is critical to developing more responsive and resilient business models in the industry. The travel is presuming but with increased regulations. We see common policies on health requirements, such as vaccinations, quarantine measures, and pre-boarding tests. Businesses will have to follow regulations closely and adapt fast. The pandemic has also resulted in a huge shift of talent from the travel industry to other industries in many countries. Attracting, developing, and keeping the right talent into and within the travel industry, in general, will be a core challenge. So, we must manage talents actively. The days of long-lasting employee retention and passive hierarchy management styles are gone. 

What does the future of the travel and tourism industry hold?

  • Major technology firms will replace most hotel and travel industry brands because they can offer technology solutions and create markets to attract customers. 

  • The traditional hospitality industry will evolve into niche markets or extremely luxury sector

  • Companies who do not adapt to these changes in the market will have less chance to survive

  • Reports by partner organizations anticipate much higher travel demand in the second half of 2022 if there is not another COVID variant.

  • The rising fuel costs will be somewhat of a deterrent to travelers as trips will be somewhat more expensive.

  • Pent-up demand will be fulfilled in countries considered "safe" to travel; this means far away and unlikely to be impacted by the invasion and air attacks on Ukraine.

What is Skål International doing while the industry is going through these changes? 

Skål International is working with leaders within its national committees appointed issue committees, clubs, and strategic partners to be leaders in the changing marketplace. The new norms for the travel industry are discussed on many platforms; in tourism, we want to take the lead to help the industry set these norms, train the current and future leaders on these norms, and continue to create successful tourism sectors. 

Skål International has invested in improving its digital presence in the last several years. We now have a focused international committee to deal with technology and digital transformation. Digital transformation will continue to focus for Skal for years to come. 

Skål International is working with its national committees, clubs, members, and strategic partners to support the marketing efforts, business relief measures, and consistent pandemic recovery policies to restore a healthy business environment to the hospitality industry.

Most importantly, in 2022, Skål International and its members are united, working together, standing as one, loyal to its key principles of doing business among friends, promoting tourism globally through friendship and amical.  

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers of Expo Turismo for hosting me and thank you to you all – the attendees for being with here and for your attention. I have enjoyed every minute of my stay so far and looking forward to walking the floor to meet the elite industry members participating in the expo and making new friends. I am already planning to return to this beautiful country Panama soon with my family. 

Thank you all for being here to be a part of one of the most important tourism events in Central America".

More info: Expo Turismo Internacional.

Burcin Turkkan, Skål International President, during his opening speech at Expo Turismo Panama on 25 March 2022.
Burcin Turkkan, Skål International President, and Iván Eskildsen,  Minister of Tourism of Panama during the event at Expo Turismo Panama.