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Anatolia opens its doors to the whole world – this sentence is a good summary of the welcome extended to all the participants in the 18th Annual Conference at the official conference opening on October 23rd 2005.
The 600-odd delegates from all over Europe felt intense emotions during this ceremony because solemnity was the order of the day.

on the front row sit the dignitaries
on the front row sit the dignitaries

‘We are happy and proud to welcome you, dear guests’ were the introductory words of Burcu Yorulmaz and Ugur Sobutay in Turkish, English and French, before we observed a minute’s silence in memory of Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish republic. Next came a rendition of the national anthem sung at the top of their voices by all the Turkish participants, followed by an extract from Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ beautifully performed by the choir of Antalya Kolegi, the organising school.

the choir of Antalya Kolegi made a very favourable impression
the choir of Antalya Kolegi made a very favourable impression

Mr Attila Koc, the minister of tourism, had sent his apologies, and Mr Erdogan, the prime minister, had sent a message of good will and of his support for the event.

Dr. Fatma Kizilirmak, Antalya Kolegi school board member and the person in overall charge of the Antalya Conference, was extremely happy to welcome so many delegates and wished them all a most fruitful meeting. She also presented her school and emphasised that a million people were employed in the tourism sector in Anatolia which would be visited by 50 million tourists! ‘The human factor is vital in tourism’, she declared, ‘and the role of tourism schools is just as vital, in all countries of the world.’

Then it was the turn of Alfonso Benvenuto, AEHT president, to take the floor in order to welcome all the delegates and to thank the organisers of the Annual Conference, particularly Dr. Fatma Kizilirmak and her right-hand man Ali Alp Arslan. He mentioned, too, the 1992 Conference which had also been a memorable event. He urged the students to take part in the competitions, to enjoy themselves and to mix together, to ‘have a good time in an atmosphere of peace, respect and freedom. Member countries of the European Union are increasing in number, and in the same way we hope that our own AEHT family will increase in size, and that more and more new schools take out membership of our Association. We are here to welcome them and to accompany them on their way. For this reason I wish to greet the country which welcomes us here today: Turkey which has just begun the process of joining the countries of the European Union: welcome, Turkey!’

Then Alfonso Benvenuto paid a very fitting tribute to Gilles Honegger, the ACCOR Group’s Director of Human Resources: Gilles, a great friend of the AEHT (see interview) who is now retiring from the Group, was made an Honorary Member. Michel Gaillot, AEHT vice-president, had the pleasure of reminding those present of Gilles Honegger’s lengthy and distinguished curriculum vitae. Gilles as usual took the opportunity to give a broad outline of the collaboration between the AEHT and ACCOR in the field of teacher placements, and of course commended the excellent work of Sibylle Schoch in support of this scheme. He also introduced Frédérique Poggi who will replace him from next year. In a short speech Frédérique Poggi expressed her own great pleasure at being in Antalya, and assured the AEHT of her full collaboration in the future.

Then three distinguished figures from Turkish education took the floor in turn.
Then three distinguished figures from Turkish education took the floor in turn.

Bekir Turgut, secretary of state for Education, spoke of the interactivity of cultures which is a most important factor in tourism because history, culture and civilisation move forward and allow us to transfer these values to future generations. He identified three parts to this task: to learn, to spread and to develop these values. For this reason Bekir Turgut believes that all students are ambassadors in one way or another. He also warmly thanked the organisers.

Cemal Tasar, director general of private education in the Ministry of Education, declared that ‘we need well educated and trained managers. Turkey has great potential and its tourism is very important for the country. Managers must speak several languages and keep their knowledge up-to-date’. He also emphasised the importance of free movement between Turkey and the European Union. And he ended his speech by thanking the team from Antalya Kolegi for their commitment.

Mehmet Temel, General Director of Tourism Education, emphasised the success and achievement of this 18th Annual Conference, of which he had very high hopes. ‘We will share in new technologies during this conference,’ he said. ‘They enable us to form links, build bridges and thus to contribute to peace in the world. I hope that all the students and all the participants will continue this momentum. And thanks to all those who have given their support to this conference ….

Next came the presentation of the participants from the countries represented, which were, in the order in which they were announced, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Croatia, Spain, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Macedonia, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Greece and Turkey. Each country and its representatives stood for applause, in keeping with a long-standing tradition dear to the AEHT!

And finally the opening ceremony ended with music and dances beautifully performed by the school’s students. Thus they marked in fine fashion the start of a stay in Turkey which, just like that of 1992, would remain for ever in the minds of the participants.

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