Alternative Destinations

Alternative DestinationsAlternative Destinations

With the ban on tours to Turkey firmly in place until at least the end of summer, avid travelers in Iran are looking at other destinations to replace the sandy beaches and sprawling shopping malls of Turkey.

Following an attempt by a faction of the Turkish military to topple the ruling party in Turkey on July 15, Iranian tourism officials placed an indefinite ban on tours to the neighboring country.

Travel agencies, which are understandably displeased with the ban since Turkey is a very popular destination, are scrambling to offer alternative packages in the hope of coaxing the public to try a different holiday experience.

According to ISNA, destinations garnering the most attention include Georgia, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan.

Georgia and Bulgaria are considered the main European alternatives to Turkey, with the former especially attractive for having waived its visa regime for Iranian nationals.

Bulgaria is slightly stricter with its visa application, requiring applicants to provide evidence of financial stability, employment and good health. Nevertheless, most travelers believe its status as a European Union state makes the visa trouble worthwhile.

The Republic of Azerbaijan, which shares a border with Iran, is a well-known and attractive option, especially because it is affordable. The main drawback is the need for a visa, which is expected to be waived next month.

Starting at 12 million rials ($342) per person, Georgia tours are about the same price as tours to Turkey, which start at around 7 million rials ($200) and go up to 50 million rials ($1,430).

This is while the average cost of traveling to Azerbaijan through a tour package costs less than 15 million rials ($430) per person, which includes a return flight and accommodation at a five-star hotel.

On the other hand, Bulgaria tours cost anywhere between 20 million ($571) and 60 million rials ($1,710) per person. Despite being noticeably more expensive than tours to Turkey, Bulgaria’s EU status may convince travelers to at least consider the option.

While Turkey was the destination of choice for a vast majority of Iranians seeking a foreign vacation, its poor security conditions and lack of political stability will continue to deter travelers and force Iranian officials to keep the ban until the situation improves.

Turkey has declared an unprecedented three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of the failed coup, in a move seen by the international community as a sign of prevailing security issues.

Organizing tours to Turkey is illegal and so far one travel agency in Tehran has lost its license for ignoring the ban.

The number of foreigners visiting Turkey plummeted more than 40% in June, official data show, marking the biggest drop in at least 22 years.

Some economists have forecast that tourism revenue-a pillar of the Turkish economy-could drop by a quarter this year, causing a loss of around $7.9 billion.