News Center -TDO- On December 9, the Department of Tourism and Hotel Management hosted the 10th Bilkent Tourism Forum, an event bringing together representatives of key public and private tourism industry organizations and academia from both Turkey and abroad. The theme of this year’s forum, which took place online via Zoom, was “Sustainable Tourism for Our Common Future,” with speakers including diplomats from Costa Rica, France, Mexico and Peru. They and other forum participants presented a wide range of perspectives, experiences and ideas regarding sustainable development in tourism, emphasizing recovery after COVID-19.

The forum started with opening remarks by Prof. Altay Güvenir, dean of the Bilkent University Faculty of Applied Sciences; Prof. Abdullah Atalar, rector of the university; Tolga Gencer (MAN ’94), board member of the Association of Turkish Tourism Agencies; Alberto Campana Boluarte, ambassador of Peru; and Mustafa Erkayıran, deputy governor of Ankara.

Then came the first of two panel sessions, consisting of five keynote speeches. Among the speakers addressing macrolevel sustainability were José Luis Martínez y Hernández, ambassador of Mexico, and Gustavo Campos Fallas, ambassador of Costa Rica, who highlighted policies and models for encouraging sustainable tourism development in their countries. François Viel, who serves as agricultural counselor for Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkmenistan in Ankara for the Regional Economic Department of the French Embassy in Turkey, explained the importance and economic impact of geographic indicators with regard to social and cultural sustainability.

The morning session continued with Zümran Ömür, winner of the 2018 “entrepreneur of the year” award by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, who spoke about the way in which local produce can serve as a basis for preserving culture and increasing income for the local community – this being an excellent example of community-based tourism development for a sustainable future. Natalia Bayona, director of innovation, education and investments for the United Nations World Tourism Organization, highlighted the important role of digitalization and innovation in sustainable tourism development and recovery after COVID-19, which will, she said, be possible with the involvement of all tourism stakeholders.

The afternoon panel featured Bilkent University graduates and representatives from the tourism industry. Aslı Gücüyener (MAN ’04), head of consumer strategy and insights for the Middle East and North Africa region at Google, described new tools tourism professionals can use to analyze and increase tourism traffic for their destinations and hotels. Sedef Budak (THS ’00),  founding president of the Turkish Women in Renewables and Energy Network, talked about the carbon footprint issue and shared technical insights regarding the way in which renewable energy resources have the potential to remedy this problem. Kemal Bayık (THM ’00) drew on his long experience as a general manager in the hospitality industry to suggest how hotels might reach their sustainability goals through efficient energy, waste and supply-chain management.

Asst. Prof. Sema Demir, founder and curator of the Anatolian Open Air Museum, described the museum chain she established, offering an example of entrepreneurship and conservation of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Finally, Asst. Prof. Bendegül Okumuş from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida shared her research findings concerning the immense amount of food that is wasted globally, stressing the need for new regulations to prevent such waste.

The forum concluded with closing remarks by Mustafa Siyahhan, a former instructor in the Department  of Tourism and Hotel Management, and Osman Keskin (THS ’98), area director of sales and marketing for OTO Development, headquartered in Chicago, USA.

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