People, Travel

Russian Tourists: Another Missed Opportunity

Russian Tourists: Another Missed Opportunity
Russian Tourists: Another Missed Opportunity

The Kremlin and Ankara’s political spat provided Iran with the perfect opportunity to tap into Russia’s massive outbound travel market, but Tehran failed to seize the opportunity, according to the chairman of the Tourism Commission at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.

Ties between Moscow and Ankara soured last fall after a Turkish fighter jet downed a Russian plane over Syria. Russia suspended charter flights and the sale of package tours to Turkey, as part of measures taken in response to Ankara’s actions.

However, the Kremlin lifted the ban on Turkey last month when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized for the November incident in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2015, 3.65 million Russian tourists visited Turkey. After the incident with the Russian jet, the number of Russian tourists who visited Turkey’s Antalya between January and May 2016 decreased drastically compared to the previous year.

Speaking on Wednesday at a meeting in Sari, Mazandaran Province, Ahmad Asghari Qajari said Iran failed to seize on Russia’s eight-month travel ban on Turkey “due to a blatant weakness in planning.”

Iran had hoped to replace Turkey as a top destination for Russian tourists. Tehran and Moscow relaxed visa requirements earlier this year with an eye toward the complete abolition of the visa regime.

Recep Safarov, who headed a Russian economic delegation to the northern province last week, was quoted as saying by ISNA that there is a “lack of effective campaigning and advertising in Russian media” to promote Iran as a destination.

“Russians have to learn about Iran and what it has to offer,” he said.

About 25,000 Russians visit Iran every year, while last year more than 34,000 Iranians traveled to Russia.