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VIP TALK | Exclusive Interview with Mertcan Tanaydı (Istanbul Airport)

August 14, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

“We will be first airport in Europe to implement a full scale ‘Chinese Friendly Airport’ initiative.” By utilizing the rich tourism resources and superior geographical location, iGA-Istanbul Airport is trying to redefine its positioning for Chinese tourists in 2020.

Mr. Mertcan Tanaydı, İGA Corporate Communications Assistant Manager, unveiled their new plans of streghtening presence in China market in his recent interview with Travel Link Daily. 

  1. If you have to recommend iGA in three words, which three words would it be? Why?

Visionary – Istanbul Airport is the largest ever greenfield airport project and has been designed to become the largest airport in the world. iGA envisioned a new international mega-hub do meet the demand of a rapidly growing aviation world and Turkey’s leading role in it.

Unique – Istanbul Airport is not just a mere airport. More than a functional transit space and a global hub, Istanbul Airport is a destination in its own right. Stunning architecture that combines modernity with traditional Turkish and Islamic elements and an authentic representation of the Istanbul feeling make Istanbul Airport a unique experience.

Passenger experience – iGA puts the passenger experience in the first place. State-of-the-art technology is aimed to ease the traveler’s journey; every service is a tailor-made offer for passenger’s demands and the world’s largest duty-free leaves no passenger-wish unfulfilled.

  1. What are you most proud of about iGA? Why?

We are most proud of realizing the biggest ever airport project in the entire world in just 42 months. The dedication of all stakeholders has made a dream come true. Not only did we build an international mega-hub, it has also already been met with enthusiasm for its synthesis of stunning architecture, cutting-edge technology, impeccable passenger experience and emphasis in sustainability. The unprecedented airport transfers from Atatürk to Istanbul Airport, the “Big Bang”, transferred all equipment and aircraft to the new Airport in less than 48 hours over a distance of 45 kilometers – the furthest distance ever seen in an airport transfer in the entire world. Another phenomenal achievement we could not be prouder of.

  1. What is the current status of Istanbul Airport’s recovery after the COVID-19? 

As everywhere else in the aviation industry, Air traffic at Istanbul Airport has declined significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For more than two months, only cargo and repatriation flights flew to and from Istanbul Airport. On June 11th we have restarted international flights at Istanbul Airport and have seen a gradual recovery since then. In the first 15 days after restarting, Istanbul Airport has served roughly 2,900 flights. We expect this number to continually increase, especially once travel restrictions from the European Union are eased. We have taken all necessary precautions against the spread of Covid-19, including comprehensive social distancing measures, obligation to wear masks, regular disinfection of all areas and thermal scanning and are confident, that passengers will be reassured by emphasis placed on hygiene and the thoroughness with witch measures are implemented. We believe that passengers will rebuild trust in aviation through these measures and expect recovery to develop positively.

  1. Will iGA work with more Chinese airlines and airports in the future? What are the new movements to expand in China market? 

While European Hubs have been active in China for many years, we have started to show our potential after moving to our brand new airport. We have currently 2 Chinese airlines at Istanbul Airport:

  • China Southern Airlines between Wuhan – Istanbul Airport & Beijing Capital Airport – Istanbul
  • Sichuan Airlines from Chengdu Shuangliu Airport – Istanbul Airport.

This is a very small numbers vs our potential. Turkey is a country with 80 million people, 4 season weather, +40 airports domestic airports connected from Istanbul Airport but we do only have 432.000 Chinese tourists in 2019. In comparison, Holland have a population of 17,2 million people but had 1,75 million Chinese tourists last year.

Therefore, Istanbul Airport has defined China a key future market for us. We have signed sister airport agreements with several Chinese airports, which will be transferred into joint marketing activities between our two countries to create brand awareness about Istanbul & Turkey.

We see ourselves as trusted advisors for our airlines to highlight our great potential. Therefore, we will work with all potential Chinese airlines and airports in the future. Our close contact will be personal and communication to Chinese travelers will mainly be via Weibo & WeChat.

  1. How will Istanbul Airport attract Chinese travelers to arrive/transit in the future?

Many travelers overall are not aware of our large network into Africa (54 destinations) and Europe (120 destinations), which make IST as perfect Gateway from China. We will highly focus on our communication via travel agencies, tour operators, WeChat, Weibo accounts to highlight our large network. We are the airport in the world with direct links to more countries than anyone else, 127 countries and more than 300 direct destinations, mainly thanks to our flag carrier, Turkish Airlines. And our close cooperation with Turkish Airlines and Chinese airlines will be the key to further success.

Despite our +40 airports strong domestic network, Chinese travelers does prefer to fly via Istanbul to Europe instead of domestic Turkey network. In addition, with our historic relations and friendly cooperation, we are undoubtedly aware that Chinese travelers prefers history and cultural tourism instead of beach tourism. Therefore, as İGA Istanbul Airport, we are going to intensify our communication through Wechat & weibo in order to highlight concerning Turkey’s tourism potential for external partners.  Our “Chinese Friendly Airport” will give Chinese travelers a warm welcome where they will being home at Istanbul Airport despite being far away from their homeland.

Last but not least, from Istanbul Airport (IST) we are linked to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Taipei, Wuhan, Chengdu & recently Xi`an. It is surely beyond doubt that, Istanbul is an important key point between East and West and also today we witness that the historical silk road does come to life on the ground per se, but rather in the air.  As we are living in modernized world, the aviation can play similar role by linking the East to the West via Istanbul Airport.

  1. What are the special features that will attract Chinese passengers? Will apps familiar to Chinese tourists, such as Alipay, land at Istanbul Airport?

Besides Alipay, we have launched a full scale “Chinese Friendly Airport” project.  Chinese travelers transfer between China and Europe via various hubs including Istanbul. We would like to make Istanbul Airport as “preferred hub“ for our Chinese guests. It is important for us that Chinese travelers feel like they are at their home at our airport. Therefore, we have looked on entire customer journey for Chinese travelers at our airport and implemented all following measures. We will be first airport in Europe to implement a full scale “Chinese Friendly Airport” initiative. We are also happy to have launched WeChat Pay -a mobile payment app used especially by our Chinese guests- at Istanbul Airport together with ICBC Bank, with this app, our guests can now make their payments easily with the QR code system.

Project China Implementation:

  1. Dedicated Check-in Islands for China flights
  2. Consolidate China flights at the same gate area
  3. FIDs Chinese Transformation
  4. CIDs Chinese Transformation (Chinese Carriers and Turkish Airlines’ China Flights)
  5. Digital Welcome Activity on Boarding Bridges
  6. Introduce more modern China friendly uniforms for Chinese Guides Team
  7. Weibo & WeChat integration of Istanbul Airport to engage with Chinese Travelers as quick as possible
  8. Airline IFE Screens / Welcome message by iGA 1 hour before landing in IST
  9. iGA APP Integration with Chinese Customer Journey
  10. Flight announcements in Mandarin for all flights to Chinese destination cities.
  11. Hot Water Dispensers on both Arrival and Departure floors
  12. Placing Statical signages on Chinese for Tax Refund Office, Customs and Info Desk facilities
  13. Placing Digital signages displaying in Chinese on the routes where Chinese traffic in the terminal is flowing
  14. Placing Portable TOTEMs around “M” Check-in Island Area
  15. Having iGA to be certified as a Chinese Friendly Airport by Istanbul General Consulate of People’s Republic of China
  1. We know that “iGA is conceived as more than just transport infrastructure – it is a vibrant social and cultural space.” so what kind of cultural exhibition projects will be landed at iGA in the future?  

First of all, Istanbul Airport Museum will be a kind of dynamic exhibition center which is now the biggest indoor airport museum in the world. We aim to have different historical and cultural artifacts every year in our airport museum. The original artifacts that are presented in here, arrived from various valuable and elite museums all over the Turkey. In addition to that, in the presentation of the artifacts, as our Culture and Tourism Minister stated that, we used technology and the history in a great harmony. For our future projects, we can say that we will be in the same view of digitalization.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, in our international departure level there were several workshops on Turkish art of water marbling, tile art and handcraft by our ministry’s artists. To avoid spread of the epidemic we stopped it for now, we are planning to change those from workshop to live demonstrations which will be displayed on video walls. Also in our İGA Lounge, musicians from Ministry of Culture and Tourism used to perform live Turkish Cultural Music concert in every weekend to show our part of culture to our guests. Now we are aiming to rearrange those concerts in the near future.

Since the beginning of 2019, we are staging the replica of “Göbeklitepe” whose ruins is really important both archaeologically and as a touristic attraction.

Last but not least, just in the entrance of the international departure level there is an area which we call “Diamond” we use that area as an exhibition space for international artworks. Just in the month of June there were several artworks of Jorge Marin who is one of the most respected sculpture master in the world. Artworks have been moved to its new exhibition area but now we are benchmarking for another compelling exhibition. 

  1. Why does iGA pay special attention to creating a “cultural space”? What advantages do you have in creating cultural spaces? 

As being the biggest Airport in the world, we aimed to not only a terminal building but also a living cultural and artistic space. To achieve that we want our passengers to bond with here, we want them to have a special memory about here. To achieve our objective, we see culture as a universal bridge of joy to our passengers’ both mind and heart. As CEO of İGA Airport Operation Mr. Kadri Samsunlu stated “As Airports we should be the first ones to connect cultures”. Hence Istanbul Airport is the doorstep of our country, we try to represent our country best. Mostly, in our cultural spaces we aimed to display of Turkish culture to raise a curiosity towards it. With that we hope our passengers’ next destination will be Istanbul and the other beautiful cities in Turkey.

Source: Travel Link Daily

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