People, Travel

Tourism Talks With Russia

Tourism Talks With RussiaTourism Talks With Russia

A tourism delegation led by a senior official at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization will call on officials and professionals in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss long-term cooperation.

A group of tour operators will accompany the delegation, ISNA reported.

The visit comes on the heels of a recent bilateral agreement to set up tourism development offices in the two countries with the aim of expanding two-way tourism ties.

The agreement was signed last year during the 12th meeting of Iran-Russia Cooperation Commission (November 10-12) in Moscow.

“Previous discussions between the two sides mostly focused on legal issues, but this trip aims to put Russian and Iranian tour operators and investors face-to-face to discuss future cooperation,” said Ali Baqer Nemati, deputy for marketing and promotion at ICHHTO.

Morteza Rahmani Movahed, the organization’s tourism deputy, will lead the delegation.

Nemati said detailed studies on the preferences of Russian travelers have been carried out which will be instrumental in helping Iranian officials suggest possible activities, travel routes and sites to Russian tour operators.

The official pointed to the 9th International Exhibition of Tourism and Related Industries in Tehran (February 16-19) and said Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency and a number of tour operators from the country will attend the event.

“We will use the opportunity to continue our negotiations with Moscow on the sidelines of the expo,” Nemati added.    A number of regional countries, including Iran, have stepped up efforts to try and replace Turkey for Russian tourists.

 Turkey Trouble

Up until a few months ago, Russia was the largest contributor to Turkey’s tourism sector, with over 4.5 million Russians visiting the Near East nation in 2014.

However, the number declined in 2015, due to a variety of factors such as Russia’s economic woes, the Turkish government’s struggle with Kurdish rebels, the so-called Islamic State militants, and differences over key foreign policy issues between the Kremlin and Ankara.

The shooting down of a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian-Turkish border by Ankara in late November was seen as the last straw on the camel’s back. Soon after the incident the Kremlin told its nationals not to travel to Turkey and banned all package tours to destinations in that country.

Experts and industry observers say the expanding political rift between Ankara and Moscow coupled with the closer proximity between Tehran and Russia has put Iran in a good position to lure Russian tourists.

Russians are issued visa-on-arrival at Iran’s international airports, a measure taken by the Rouhani administration to facilitate travel and lift the hospitality industry.

Iranian officials are also considering the possibility of waiving visa requirements for Russians traveling to Iran on a package holiday, as part of a group.

Russia is believed to be among the list of 40 countries targeted by the ICHHTO in which to promote Iranian tourism. Other countries include Armenia, China and India.