Time to Attract Russian Tourists

While Russia has enjoyed a 62% increase in tourism from Iran, there has been a meager 15% rise in other direction
Iran may need to rely heavily on its appeal as a historical country to attract Russians.Iran may need to rely heavily on its appeal as a historical country to attract Russians.

The number of Iranian tourists visiting Russia grew by a solid 62% in 2016 compared to a year earlier, while Iran needs to capitalize on the excellent bilateral ties to attract Russian tourists.

According to Russia Beyond the Headlines (an English-language news website run by RT’s parent company, TV-Novosti), roughly 67,000 Iranians traveled to Russia last year following the bilateral simplification of visa procedures in February 2016.

Russians expect around 100,000 Iranians to visit this year.

The two countries have also reached an agreement to waive visa requirements for groups of up to 50 people and are reportedly working on abolishing the visa regime altogether by the yearend.

While these measures were meant to boost travel to both countries, Russia seems to be the one benefiting most from it as Iran is ostensibly struggling with attracting Russians.

Speaking to travel news website Safar, Ali Baqer Nemati Zargaran, the head of Tourism Promotion and Marketing Office at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, said appealing to Russians’ tastes and meeting their demands is not easy and we need to work harder.

Zargaran noted that there has been a 15% rise in inbound tourism from Russia.

In 2015, around 25,000 Russians traveled south to Iran.

Ebrahim Pourfaraj, the head of Iranian Tour Operators’ Society, said in January that industry players were discussing the issue of marketing Iran overseas with the tourism authority “to get them to cooperate with us”.

Familiarization tours are free (or low cost) trips for travel agents or consultants, provided by a country, travel operator or airline as a means of promoting their attractions and services. Even if such fam tours are organized, it will fail to bear results without conducting effective marketing campaigns in Russia.

“Getting tour operators to come here without promoting Iran on billboards and TV spots in Russia is meaningless; can’t have one without the other,” he said.

At present, Iran’s Mahan Air and Russia’s Aeroflot connect Moscow and Astrakhan to Tehran. Iran’s short-term goal is to draw 100,000 Russians a year.

A third of Russia’s 30 million outbound tourists travel to visit historical sites and learn about various cultures, making them a prime target for Iran.

Russia is too good of a market to pass up on and given the favorable diplomatic relations between Tehran and Moscow, now is the perfect time to establish lasting tourism ties.

“The diplomatic connection is there, but the problem is that Russians know nothing about Iran’s attractions and what it can offer,” Pourfaraj said. “If we can’t break into the Russian market now, we never will.”

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