MANILA, Philippines – To serve the growing two-way tourist arrivals between Turkey and the Philippines, Turkish Airlines launched direct, non-stop flights between Istanbul and Manila in March. Data from the Department of Tourism shows a 19-percent increase in tourist arrivals from Turkey between 2012 and 2013.
“The Philippines has posted one of the world’s most impressive economic growths in recent years. Turkish Airlines sees opportunities in expanding air travel services in this country, which not only has a booming economy and a large population, but excellent tourist destinations as well,” said Erhan Balaban, Turkish Airlines general manager for the Philippines. “We are also committed toward strengthening ties between Turkey and the Philippines by taking part in both countries’ efforts to develop tourism, trade and investment.”
Balaban, who took over the position in October 2014, oversees the airline’s operations in the country from marketing and advertising to accounting and cargo operations. His many duties include “representing the company in the best manner.”
Prior to handling the Philippine operations, Balaban was tasked to oversee the Japanese account. “My door is open to everyone as it is important for me that my staff feels comfortable in their relationship with me. I see myself as sensitive on having things in order. I experienced this in Japan, which I believe is the proper way of doing business,” he said.
Proper communication ranks high in his leadership style. Every morning, he gathers his team for a 15-minute meeting to update each other on tasks and plans. “We focus on the tasks together and proceed to our daily tasks afterwards.”
Being posted in the Philippines also comes with leisure benefits. The expat says the country has a smorgasbord of leisure activities one can choose from. The Philippines’ natural beauty, he admits, motivates him to travel across the country to discover more and more about this beautiful place. He enjoys diving and playing golf, among others.
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“Our announcement of the opening of route has been well received here in the Philippines as we continue to receive calls and visits from travel agents, tour operators, corporate customers, and walk-ins expressing their interest and excitement about this,” said Balaban.
Asked why travelers from Turkey and Europe should visit the Philippines, Balaban said: “The Philippines is blessed with the world’s most stunning natural wonders, from smoldering volcanoes to dazzling coral gardens. Turks would also love the Philippines’ beaches. It is easy to see why millions flock to the country just to bask under the sunit has the most beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters and fine, powdery sand like Boracay and El Nido. It has dozens of other islands that are also not very commercialized yet, for those seeking a peaceful and private retreat.”
“Perhaps the greatest attraction of all is the Filipinos’ world-renowned hospitality. The Filipinos’ warmth and friendliness will surely make Turks feel at home.”
Balaban encourages Filipinos to include Turkey in their travel bucket list because the country “offers an intoxicating mix of the ancient and modern, and rewards travelers with sensory delights at every corner. Turkey has something to offer for every tourist’s inclinations.”
The airline executive lists down recommendations for every Filipino traveler setting foot in Turkey. Balaban suggests visiting the Hagia Sophia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Istanbul Sapphire, the country’s first ecological building and one of the tallest European skyscrapers. The Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, is a haven for shopaholics as it houses over 3,000 shops across 61 streets selling a myriad of products. He also recommends Filipino foodies to try boreks (filled flaky pastries), pilafs (grains cooked in spiced stocks), kadaif (cheese pastry in sweet syrup), halva, and gullac.
To allow Filipinos to experience the charm and charisma of Turkey, Turkish Airlines flies three time a week to Istanbul. “Turkish Airlines has consistently been named Europe’s best airline by Skytrax, a leading consultancy firm based in the United Kingdom that conducts surveys on commercial airlines. Travelers themselves have consistently given the airline top marks in all seat classes across survey categories,” said Balaban.
Turkish Airlines, which operates the world’s fourth largest flight network in 274 destinations in 109 countries, offers exciting perks and privileges to passengers. Filipino travelers can also get to experience the newly expanded lounge in the Istanbul Ataturk Airport as well as other exclusive lounges of partner airlines across the world.
“Turkish Airlines hopes to cater to a large number of businessmen, tourists, and transit passengers seeking a gateway to Turkey and the rest of Europe,” he said.