People, Travel

Turkey Counts Blessings as Iranians Flock to Istanbul

Turkey Counts Blessings as Iranians Flock to Istanbul
Turkey Counts Blessings as Iranians Flock to Istanbul

Weekly return flights between Istanbul and various Iranian cities have hit 165 amidst growing interest in the countries tourism offerings, according to the Turkish daily Milliyet.

Passenger occupancy rates have reached approximately 85% for flights to Istanbul from Iranian cities such as Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Isfahan and Ahvaz.

Iranian ATA Airlines station manager in Turkey, Behzad Atarod, said that a total of nine air carriers are conducting 18 return flights from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport to Iran every day.

Atarod said, “As ATA Airlines, we conduct flights from Istanbul to Tehran and back every night. The passenger occupancy rate for the Norouz period (March 20 – April 1) reached around 95%. The passenger occupancy rate is similar for other airlines.”

Most Iranian tourists in Istanbul hope to visit its Büyükada island, in addition to other attractions such as Hagia Sophia, according to Atarod, while others enjoy visiting bazaars and attending cultural events.

Turkey’s travel industry has taken a beating in the past year, due to an ongoing conflict with Kurdish fighters and terrorist attacks and other violence presumably orchestrated by the so-called Islamic State.

Things took a turn for the worse last November when Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet on its border with Syria, prompting the Kremlin to impose painful economic sanctions on Ankara and ban its citizens from traveling to the Mediterranean country.

A number of bombings in subsequent months, which targeted crowded tourist areas in Ankara and Istanbul, killed dozens of people with German tourists making up most of the casualties. Russians and Germans are the top two contributors to Turkey’s tourism sector, making up nearly 10 million, or 25%, of annual arrivals.

Turkish officials hope to increase the number of Iranian tourists in the country in an attempt to recuperate the loss of revenue from Russian and German travelers.