Ankara seeking Solution in Tehran

Ankara  seeking Solution  in TehranAnkara  seeking Solution  in Tehran

With Russian tourists s banned from traveling to Turkey and Europeans in two minds over visiting the Near East country, Turkey’s once-thriving tourism industry is in dire straits. The sector’s revenue dropped by 14.3% in the fourth quarter of 2015 and by 16.5% in the first quarter of this year.  

The government is scrambling to get the key industry back on track. Ankara hopes to find a solution in Tehran, and they are willing to pay for it.

“Turkey’s tourism infrastructure ranks among the best in the world, and we’re open to sharing our expertise in the area with Iran,” said Mahir Unal, minister of culture and tourism, during a meeting on Thursday with Iran’s tourism chief Masoud Soltanifar.

Unal, who was leading a 25-strong delegation of Turkish tourism professionals and investors on a two-day trip (May 12-13), said he was in Iran to help develop relations to the extent possible, ISNA reported.

  Leveling the Playing Field

Around 1.75 million Iranians travel to Turkey every year, making Iran the fifth-highest contributor to Turkish tourism, but with Russia out of the picture Iran may have gone up a notch. Only 163,000 Turks visit Iran every year.

In an effort to promote domestic tourism, a people-driven campaign was launched in Iran last year to encourage people to travel domestically during the extended New Year (Norouz) holiday (March 20 – April 1), and it worked: Travel to turkey dropped by 10% compared to the corresponding period last year, much to the dismay of Turkish tourism officials.

To help reverse the trend, Turkish officials are prepared to launch more direct flights between the two countries and allow Iranian airlines to touch down in more diverse destinations in Turkey.

Furthermore, they are eager to invest in Iran’s tourism projects, hoping it will improve the country’s profile among Iranians.

“Leveling the playing field (in terms of passengers traveling between the two countries) doesn’t mean less Iranians should visit Turkey; it means we have to encourage more Turks to visit Iran,” said Soltanifar, head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization. “The Turks have resolved to build hotels in Iran and increase flight routes, which will help increase traveling between the two states.”

Confirming Soltanifar’s comments, Unal said business leaders in his delegation “are in talks with local firms to invest in Tehran and other cities.”

  Ensuring Security

A series of bombings carried out by the so-called Islamic State terrorist outfit (also called Daesh or ISIS) and Kurdish separatist groups has raised safety concerns, deterring many from traveling to Turkey in the past year.

Despite two suicide bombings in Istanbul in January and March, which killed 17 and injured 50, Unal believes Istanbul and other destinations frequented by Iranians are safe.

“The attacks are restricted to the southeastern (Kurdish) regions of the country,” he stressed.

Both Soltanifar and Unal emphasized that “working together” can help bring security back to the region and help boost tourism.