Turkey Keeps a Tab on Iran

Turkey Keeps a Tab on Iran Turkey Keeps a Tab on Iran

Iran’s emerging travel market has not gone unnoticed by its main regional rival and neighboring state, Turkey.

Turkey-based English news website Hurriyet Daily News reported on Nov. 24 that Turkish tourism executives have to stave off competition “from a new rival (Iran) in the region” to reach new markets such as China and India.

Iran’s nascent tourism industry and its growing popularity have prompted Turkish research firms to keep a close eye on the Iranian travel industry.

Fehmi Kofteoglu, chief executive officer of the research firm Ekin Group, told Hurriyet that his firm will “especially focus on Iran” in a report that will be submitted to the fifth International Resort Tourism Congress in Antalya (November 27-28).

  Collaboration vs. Competition

In addition to China and India, both Iranian and Turkish tourism officials are targeting the Russian market.

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 of Russians traveling to Turkey has been on the decline 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 Russian Federal Tourism Agency warned against all non-essential travel to Turkey following the explosion of an IS-planted bomb in Suruc in July that killed at least 30 people.

Turkey’s tourism sector has been hit in general this year, with the industry posting revenue losses in every quarter so far this year.

The worsening political rift between Turkey and Russia and the growing diplomatic ties between Tehran and Moscow has firmly put Iran in a position to prize Russian tourists away from Turkey.

However, the neighboring states may not need to challenge each other for tourism dollars.

David Weaver, a professor of tourism research at Australia’s Griffith University, told the Financial Tribune in October that Iran does not need to “steal” tourists from Turkey or other regional rivals to boost its inbound figures, but rather “piggyback on their growing tourism industry.”

“Iran should aim to persuade tourists visiting other regional countries to also visit Iran,” he said.

Iran and Turkey have had longstanding tourism ties, with the Iranian market accounting for 4.2% of Turkey’s inbound tourism in 2014. Additionally, provincial tourism officials in Iran’s northwestern region have been holding talks with the Turks to strengthen bilateral tourism ties.

  Top Destination

Earlier this month, the WTM Global Trends Report 2015 pointed to Iran as one of the top three emerging destinations, thanks to its unique culture and heritage.

Iran looks set to exploit its ancient Persian history, including 19 World Heritage Sites — more than any other country in the region —and more unlikely tourism attractions such as 19 ski resorts and opportunities for mountain climbing and bird-watching.

The report was released at World Travel Market London 2015 (November 2-5), in which Iran was exhibiting its largest travel delegation ever, a testament to the Iranian government’s commitment to developing the key sector.

A survey of 2,050 WTM visitors, including executives from travel firms and tourism organizations, found that a third expect to do more business in Iran next year, Travel Mole reported.

Despite Iran’s shockingly underdeveloped infrastructure, Kofteoglu said tourism investments would “pour into Iran as the country becomes a favorite destination of foreign travel agencies.”

Political analysts and tourism professionals attribute Iran’s reemergence on the global stage to President Hassan Rouhani’s open diplomacy since taking office in 2013, which aims to establish normal ties with the international community.