Iranian tourism industry today upholds a raw potential awaiting an amazing expansion in the near future. While growth is ensured, the supporting allies, coinciding situations and the speed of events yet remain worthy of examination. Out of the neighboring countries, one would wonder how the recently strained relationship between Russia and Turkey could possibly reflect in Iranian tourism industry. What are the possibilities that the shift in political relations between Russia and Turkey may be a supporting factor in the expansion of Iran’s tourism industry?
The Turkish-Russian relation dates back to the Ottoman-Russian Empire times. Though turbulent for the most part, the two countries have a lengthy and engaged history together. Despite ups and downs and the engagement in many wars against each other, finally in 1920’s the two countries started developing a warmer relationship. Though many setbacks involved, the following decades gradually fortified the economical bond between the respective countries. By the fall of the Soviet Union in early 1990’s, the ties between the countries strengthened even further as they ranked amongst each other’s largest trade partners.
Turkey became the top destination for the Russian Tourists and Russia held a very high figure in Turkey’s tourism economy as three to four million Russians were visiting turkey yearly. Only about 4.4 million Russian including 3.3 million tourists visited Turkey in 2014. Turkey’s seaside resorts became one of the top destinations for Russian travelers. The zenith of Turkey Russian tourist relations lasted till the jet shoot down incident of November 2015 quickly put an end to it. The shocking incident was followed by unfortunate consequences taxing the positive tourist relations between Russia and Turkey.
On Nov 24th, 2015 Turkey shot down Russia’s war- plane in Turkish- Syrian border stating that the jet was in Turkey’s airspace. Shocked by the affair, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia stated that Russia would never forget downing of the jet and called the event a stab in the back. Russia implemented a series of economic sanctions against Turkey right away and Russia’s state terrorism agency recommended suspending all tour package sales to Turkey. Furthermore, the foreign minister of Russia recommended Russians not to travel to Turkey at all and talked about restricting air travel to Russia. This created a destination void for Russian tourists and left many countries in the region including Iran seeking the opportunity to host Russian tourists.
As Iran is seeking to attract 20 million foreign tourists by the year 2025, the recent affairs in the region seem to coincide as expediting factors in this process. While Russia is looking for a tourist destination replacement, Iran is also hoping to host Russians. Many countries including Russia, warmly visited the Ninth international tourism exhibition in Tehran in February 2016. Russia’s extensive presence in this expo was a result of recent clashes with Turkey and Iran’s resumed cultural economic relations with Europe after the sanctions removal. Through the recent meetings, the agreements between Iran and Russia seem propitious in engaging in extended tourist exchange in the future.
The words of the head of Rostourism, Oleg Safonov, during a meeting with Dr. Morteza Movahed, the ministry of Iran’s tourism, were very promising regarding the tourist relations between Iran and Russia. Safonov stated that Iran is one of the safest places for Russian tourism and Russia was ready for closer cooperation in that field. He added that there are many beautiful places in Russia and Iran to visit and he was hoping that with further cooperation between the two countries, there would be more tourist exchange between Russia and Iran. He also added that Iran could fill the void that the Russian tour Industry is experiencing as a result of Mal relationship with Turkey and Egypt. Dr. Movahed also promised the best service in welcoming Russians in return.
Iran and Russia are cooperating to remove visa requirements to further facilitate travel between the two countries. In addition, Iran’s private airline Mahan Air launched direct flights between Tehran and Moscow on January 21st, 2016 accommodating more tourist exchange. During an Iran Daily interview, Yulia A. Mokhova, the acting director of Visit Russia, stated that Russia has plans to expand the media cooperation between the two countries to inform people of the possible tourist attractions. The positive recent agreements between Iran and Russia optimistically indicate the possibility of Iran replacing Turkey as a Russian’s tourist destination. The agreements to create closer tourism ties between Iran and Russia could be an expediting factor in the expansion of Iranian tourism industry.