Speech by Burcin Turkkan, President of Skål International, on the occasion of the 90th Anniversary of Skål International Paris

Paris, July 2, 2022

My Fellow Skålleagues,

I am honored to be the Skål International World President to be a part of this milestone 90th Aanniversary of the first Skål International club in the world: Paris.

The world milestone when related to a birthday means ‘a special landmark age which is deserving of a little more attention than a simple card and cake’.

It also means ‘an important point in the progress or the development of something’.

It is very apt to relate these two definitions to the crossroads we face at Skål International at the moment, not only celebrating the anniversary of Paris but standing on the cusp of a decision which may or may not allow us to celebrate a further 90 years.

Paris is not just a city but a state of mind! It also features in Charles Dickens 'Tale of two cities' which depicts life in Paris during the French Revolution depicting the happy and sad life of its citizens... Again, apt for my visit to this event as not only to celebrate but to be the catalyst for change.

  • Paris is the mecca of tourism.

  • Paris is one of the world's greatest cities.

  • Paris is one of earth's most visited cities.

  • Paris is the world's symbol of elegance, chic, liberty, and culture.

Walking around this city you get the feeling that you are part of a living museum. While wandering the streets of Paris turns up your senses, it opens you up to new senses, ideas and everything seems richer and velvety. It symbolises the true ‘amicale’ of our beloved organization.

We are so pleased that the group of travel professionals who met in 1932 decided to start our first Skål International club in Paris, a city considered to be the mecca of tourism to start a travel organization that would flourish and grow to be the largest travel and tourism organization in the world and one which represents every sector of the industry!

Skål International Paris has not only produced the founder of our organization and first Skål International World President, Mr Florimond Volckaert, which is also the name of our benevolent society but also 5 World Presidents, one of them being Karine Coulange, who was only the 4th female World President in our organizations' history.

Even though we are celebrating Skål International Paris' 90th anniversary, we would not be sharing this special occasion if the founders, leaders and members did not understand and accept the need for constant change in our industry as well as the ever changing member expectations. When we look back at our rich history, it emulates the need for constant change to reach success.

What have we achieved so far?

We all know that success in the travel and tourism industry is always reached when we work together towards a common goal and that is exactly why I chose my presidential theme of ‘Together we are stronger as one’. This theme has been included with all our correspondence when any achievements, announcements and ideas have been implemented so as to keep it top of mind with all our members.

The first step to align with my Presidential vision was to incorporate the incredible talents and minds of our members into different work committees.

This would not only add value to our offerings but also create excitement and encourage teamwork among our members while allowing them to be part of our organization's decision-making process.

When people's talents are recognized, it immediately ignites the creative mind and spreads positivity to all, which naturally encourages many new projects.

The longevity of our organization will depend on how we meet the expectations of the new generations and disruptions in the working environment, which will allow us to understand what enhanced membership benefits will attract new members to our organization.

Skål International needs to be the North Star in our industry as our colleagues will be observing how our organization will handle change and how flexible and adaptable we are to the countless challenges our industry faces. As in many businesses and organizations, changes have to be implemented as:

  • Members needs are constantly evolving.

  • The global economy is constantly changing.

  • Change means growth and innovation.

  • You have to challenge the status quo.

Teamwork, Collaboration, Transparency, Thinking out of the box, and a Willingness to change is the new currency in this new world and vital to possess if we want to survive.

The change process in organizations and companies are on a very fast trajectory and tourism has always been the first catalyst for growth in an industry

Connecting Tourism Globally while making authentic connections through trust, friendship, business and travel, that is what membership to Skål International is.

Albert Einstein famously remarked "Today's problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them".  

This statement is so apt for Skål International now, as we have to find that perfect balance within the change cycle of not forgetting our past successes and the core values we represent but rather enhancing them to fit into our new world, by understanding this balance, we can steer members into a positive direction where we as the largest travel and tourism organization globally will remain dynamic in our industry. Travel and Tourism is the most reforming and ever changing industry in the world and as Skål International represents each sector of the industry, we have to be the guiding star when it comes to adaptability, flexibility and acceptance to change and dynamics in our industry.

Change is not a force to be feared but rather an opportunity to be seized.

Change is an event but transition through this change is an intentional process.

One is normally most creative through a transition period so this post-pandemic time is the ideal time to reassess every aspect of our personal and business life.

Acceptance precedes change and our first step in this cycle of change is acceptance that moving from the past is necessary!

To implement successful change into an organization, all parties must be in agreement, otherwise change will never take place. Even though different factions influence members, it must be remembered that ultimately, we are all working for a better future and that differences should always be discussed before presenting a united front to the members.

As members of Skål International we have realized that there is a powerful tool that has the potential to transform any challenging relationship into one of equity, openness and sustainable fair exchange and that is effective communication.

Let us all have a solution mindset!

Many of us get stuck in the past because of our need for certainty. Certainty is one of the six basic human needs and is fundamentally about survival. Moving on from the past also means stepping into the unknown future. It means having the courage to let go of what is familiar – even if it’s negative – and being vulnerable enough to embrace and learn from what’s ahead. 

The tagline that I referred to in my World Skål International Day message of ‘Reminisce, Renew, Reunite’ is so apt for us now as we acknowledge what was, have the opportunity to renew our mindset and work together for a better future.  

The outward mindset is being able to see yourself as part of a bigger whole. It is incorporating your own thoughts, feelings and goals into a widespread understanding that others are actually more like you than they are different. When we can see this similarity, we can empathize and look forward to change.

Inclusion offers the opportunity to create a space where everyone is invited into the conversation and appreciated for what they contribute.

Invite people in rather than call them out, encourage change rather than demand, allow people to be heard so that you can build trust in your organization... This has been my goal and intention for my Presidential year.

I like to compare change with the wind!

Wind moves the air to circulate the atmosphere and keeps it from becoming stagnant. It can be a gentle breeze or so violent that it can create chaos and destruction. The world feels more alive when there is wind. No matter the degree of intensity, wind will activate you. If you are feeling lethargic, which is a lack of activity, then allow the wind to stir your senses and focus on your 'out the box thinking'. Just like a strong wind, you cannot avoid it if you are in the wind's path, you either adapt to it or get blown over.

My question to you all is...

When the winds of change blow, will you be building walls or building windmills?

If your company or organization is not going to adapt to rapid and expected changes in the new world and future you will not succeed.

Instead of Skål International going from GOOD - GREAT- GONE we all must ensure that we rather go from GOOD - GREAT - GROWING... the choice is your's/ours.

Once again it is my pleasure to be a witness the 90th Anniversary of Skål International Movement here in Paris with you all. I am really looking forward to celebrating many more Skål International Anniversaries together as One.

Cheers & Skål!

Burcin Turkkan


Skål International