On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Skål International, more than 250 tourism professionals from around the world have gathered in Paris. The celebrations started with a sumptuous gala dinner on April 27, 2009 in the Galerie des Fêtes in the French National Assembly under the auspices of M. Bernard Accoyer, President of the parliament, and Mr. Ertugrul Gunay, Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, who sponsored the dinner and the publication of a book illustrating the history of Skål over the last 75 years.
In addition to Skål members and special guests from other international organizations, the gala dinner was also attended by M. Henri Novelli, Secretary of State in charge of tourism, French Government; the Presidents of French/Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Committee, Mr. Michel Diffenbacher and Mr. Yasar Yakis; Mr.Thierry Baudier, Director General, Maison de la France; the Commercial Director of Air France Mr. Christian Boireau; and a large number of honorary and past presidents of Skål International.
The celebrations continued on “World Skål Day” on April 28, 2009 with a visit to Pere Lechaise cemetery, where a wreath was laid at the tomb of Florimond Volckaert, founder president of the organization and considered the father of Skål.
A networking luncheon followed on board the Bateaux Parisiens attended by more than 250 members worldwide.
A special plaque was unveiled by the president of Skål International Hulya Aslantas at the Hotel Scribe to commemorate the 75th anniversary. The first meeting of Skål was held in Hotel Scribe in April 1934, and this is already marked by a plaque unveiled in 1954 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary.
In her address, the president of Skål International Hulya Aslantas said, “It is indeed a great pride and honor for me to be the president of the Skal World in such a milestone year.”
She added that, “Skål had to make the celebration of such a caliber that it would mark this special year and be an opportunity to revamp the positioning of our movement; however, above all, whatever we make, the first challenge was to try to be worthy of our ancestors who left us such a glorious history.”
She said that in the 1930s, tourism was not considered an industry, and its giant dimensions of today could not even have been imagined. Yet when we look back and make a careful analysis, Skal International remains to be the first and world’s largest civil initiative in tourism with senior professionals from all branches of the industry under its umbrella. Skål is present in 90 countries with a very solid structure with over 20,000 members.
With these unique features, Skal International has gone through changing times, taking different attitudes and approaches. At the very beginning, the emphasis was on “Friendship and Amicale,” the basic idea that is still one of the core values – to develop friendly ties between the professionals.
With tourism becoming an industry, especially in the 80s with increased competition and faster life styles, Skål members started realizing its networking power, and the “Doing Business Among Friends” concept was introduced by president Matanyah Hecht. The first lady president, Mary Bennett, chose as her presidential theme, “Tourism through Friendship & Peace,” underlining the important role Skål members could play in that respect, a theme which had been highlighted earlier by former president Uzi Yalon.
In 1998, the first “SKALITE” Quality Awards were launched to draw attention to quality when mass tourism was gaining power.
In 2002, Skål International launched the Ecotourism Awards to help create a global awareness to “sustainability,” which a few years later was adopted by president Litsa Papathanassi as her theme, “Sustainable Development in Tourism,” pointing out to Skål members and to the world the values we should carefully be watching along with our other professional activities.
Hulya Aslantas said she had chosen as her presidential theme, “Bridging the Cultures” to remind Skål members of the role we could assume as “ambassadors of peace” – to make sure our travel programs focus on exchanging cultures, which in turn will help to increase understanding between nations and eventually contribute to world peace, which is so necessary these days.
Skål is very proud to be an organization which has “friendship and amicale” as its roots and continues to tackle such important topics. Moreover, being who they are and where they stand today as “world leaders in tourism,” Hulya also believes that it is their duty to assume responsibilities towards the healthy and sustainable growth of the tourism Industry.
The president wished all Skål members, worldwide, many more years of happiness, good health, friendship, and long life.