Drawing Russians Easier Said Than Done

Drawing Russians  Easier Said Than DoneDrawing Russians  Easier Said Than Done

Iranian tourism officials should exercise caution in relying on Russian tourism to develop the country’s emerging travel market in the short-term, according to an industry insider.

 Ebrahim Pourfaraj, president of Iran Tour Operators’ Association, said pinning hopes on Russian arrivals to help lift the tourism industry is unlikely to achieve the desired results in the short-term. Most Russians are unfamiliar with Iran and what it has to offer, he told ILNA.

“Meetings between the two sides, while encouraging, have not produced anything of substance; for now, it’s all talk,” he said.

Earlier this month, a tourism delegation led by Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization, visited Moscow to discuss business opportunities and long-term cooperation.

Last year, the two sides agreed to set up tourism development offices in both countries with the aim of developing bilateral tourism.  

Pourfaraj said “comprehensive programs must be put in place that will promote Iran,” including its historical heritage and traditions, to Russians.

He proposed participating in trade fairs and organizing familiarization tours for Russian journalists and entrepreneurs to help market Iran in Russia, and said his association is in talks with Russian businesses and has invited them to travel to Iran to assess the tourism potential.  

“Iran should strive to attract the 4.5 million Russians who travel to Turkey every year.”

People travel to Turkey and Iran for very different reasons, Pourfaraj said. “But I’m certain a significant number of Russians who visit Turkey are also drawn by history and cultural heritage; those are the travelers we need to target.”

A number of regional countries, including Iran, have stepped up efforts to try and replace Turkey for the large number of Russian tourists.

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

However, the number declined in 2015, due to a variety of factors such as Russia’s economic crisis, , 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 leaders in 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 holiday in Turkey and banned all package tours to the popular destinations resorts in that country.

Many Russians preferred holidaying in Turkey because of its history, geography and most importantly the low cost of package tours they said were much cheaper compared to other European and Asian destinations.

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.

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.