Part I: Negotiating with hotels

View of Besiktas from the hotel

A good hotel will significantly influence the overall feel of the Istanbul incentive.

These days it is fairly normal that after about 5 years in a company employees start looking for new opportunities. With employee turnover being so high in the global economy, companies need to find ways to retain their workforce. Incentive travel is one highly valuable business asset that companies can use to motivate, engage and retain employees.

As an incentive planner, there are many aspects that you need to consider when planning such an event. In this first article of a series, we will explore how to negotiate with hotels, as you plan an Istanbul incentive for your clients. 

Finding the right hotel

Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul

Securing a good hotel is key when planning a top-notch incentive travel. Here, the Shangri-La Bosphorus.

If you set out to look for the ‘right’ hotel for an Istanbul incentive travel, chances are you might be overwhelmed by the hundreds of possibilities. If your budget allows it and you want to pamper the group, consider booking rooms in one of the many Bosphorus waterside hotels.

Among these, and especially if you’re planning for a bigger group, the Çırağan Palace Kempinski and the Four Seasons Bosphorus are both excellent choices. Other hotels in the same category of luxury include: Swissotel The Bosphorus, Shangri-La Bosphorus and the Radisson Blu Bosphorus, the latter two of which are on the water.

Negotiating the stay

Istanbul is a popular destination not only for tourists, but businesses as well. A hub for conferences, exhibits, team buildings and other related events, it is high in demand all year round.

  • Before you get in touch
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

A Turkish hamam bath experience is a must during any Istanbul incentive travel trip.

All of the hotels listed above offer business and group packages, which can usually be customized to fit your needs. It is advisable that before you contact a hotel, you create a prioritized list of concessions which you’ll want to secure for your group.

Since you’re in Turkey, you should provide your group with an authentic Turkish experience. Does the hotel you’re considering offer hammam (Turkish bath) spa treatments? If so, definitely include them!

Would you like to take the group on a Bosphorus cruise? Make sure to put it on the list because you will have to notify the hotel that you’re planning to use their pier. A Turkish fine dining experience? A traditional dervish ritual dance performance? Yes, include those too.

An additional consideration to have is the location of the hotel and where you plan on taking the group. Istanbul is considered the second most congested city in the world so careful planning is required. Avoid this by picking a hotel that is close to your other destinations within the city or make sure to inquire in the hotel how long it takes and which routes to opt for. You could also have a look the following discussion on TripAdvisor about the times, days and areas that are worst for traffic jams.

  • Booking the rooms

Park Hyatt Istanbul

Keep your concessions list in mind as you approach and negotiate with hotels. If you plan your Istanbul incentive during high season, hotels will be more confident in turning you down if you ask for too much.

Tourist season in Istanbul runs from April through October, with April through mid-June and mid-August through October being peak. Furthermore, hotels usually block only a certain amount of rooms for group and business events. All the more reason to book early.

Not all hotels will be willing to negotiate on all terms equally. There is no doubt that you will get a discount on your deal, since you’re bringing a group. In order to get the best deal, though, you could ask to work more closely with the hotel’s management. Have someone personally involved with the planning for the group stay. This will secure you a more favorable place when making demands later on.

  • Reducing other costs

Even if the hotel won’t offer a bigger discount on the rooms, it is quite possible that you will be able to get it elsewhere. Turkish Hamam and other spa treatments, food, gifts, upgrades to the rooms can all be negotiated. If you know your priorities and demonstrate that you want to get a quality value deal for your group, you are certain to elicit respect and professionalism.

Finally, before signing a contract with the hotel, you could look for additional resort fees and service charges. These are standard, but given that you’re planning a custom event, you might be able to negotiate these or have them waived altogether.


Istanbul is a perfect destination for incentive travel. On the one hand, it offers the comforts and luxuries that are found in any modern metropolises. On the other, it can satisfy the need for adventure and new cultural experiences.

There’s nothing like shopping in the Grand Bazaar, visiting the Old City or taking a cruise on the Bosphorus. An Istanbul incentive is guaranteed to leave employees feeling rewarded, motivated and looking forward to the next trip.

Stay tuned for Part II where we will go into the details of organizing an unforgettable Bosphorus dinner cruise as part of your Istanbul incentive.

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