EghtesadOnline: Iran and Turkey plan to resume two train services later this month.
“Services will resume between Tehran and Turkey’s eastern city of Van on June 25 and between Tehran and Ankara on June 27,” Mir-Hassan Mousavi, the deputy head of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, said.
Train services between the two neighboring countries were suspended in 2015 due to security concerns over terrorist attacks on the route, according to Financial Tribune.
“The trains will feature compartments with couchettes for four people and are scheduled, for the time being, to run once a week," Mehr News Agency quoted Mousavi as saying.
Noting that the train journey from Tehran to Van will take 20-22 hours, the official said, “Given the customs and passport controls on the borders of the two countries and a 3-3.5-hour ferry boat ride from Lake Van to Tatvan, it will take about 60 hours to travel between the capital cities of Iran and Turkey by train.”
Tehran-Ankara and Tehran-Van journeys have been priced at €43 and €20 respectively.
Top Destinations for Iranian Tourists
Turkey has long been among top destinations for Iranians.
According to Daily Sabah, thousands of Iranians flocked to Turkey during Iran’s two-week long New Year holiday, known as Norouz, this year (started March 21), creating a great stir in Turkey's tourism sector.
More than 18,000 Iranian tourists entered Turkey from the eastern province of Van's Kapikoy border checkpoint alone during the first week of Norouz, while other Turkish provinces such as Erzurum, Rize and Antalya also at the fore of cities welcoming Iranian tourists.
Arriving in a wide range of cities from Van and Adana, to Erzurum and Rize, Iranians have pleased both tradesmen and hoteliers, especially in this period, considered a "low season". The occupancy of hotels in some regions exceeded 80%.
Located near the Iranian border, Van is a tourist attraction known for its natural wonders and historic monuments. Over the years, it has become a top destination for Iranian tourists, especially during the Iranian national holidays.
The Van Directorate of Culture and Tourism, Saray District Governor's Office and Customs Directorate officials, who welcomed the arriving tourists with Turkish delight and carnations, stated that Iranians would continue to enter Turkey from the Kapikoy Customs Gate, which has been recently modernized and officially reopened on March 19 in the Saray district.
Van Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism Muzaffer Aktug said a large number of tourists thronged the streets of Van from the onset of the Norouz holiday.
Aktug noted that the fifth Van Shopping Festival was organized in the city for Iranian tourists, adding that while tradesmen offer a discount of up to 70% for Iranian guests, local artists are also brought from Iran to help tourists have a good time.
Cemal Akin, general manager of Ridos Thermal Hotel, said that with the opening of Ovit Tunnel, Turkey's longest tunnel stretching over 14,300 meters, they now have a significant tourist potential from Iran and Iraq.
A report published by the Hotel Association of Turkey shows some 2.5 million Iranian tourists visited Turkey in 2017, making the country the top destination for Iranian holidaymakers.
Iraq, the UAE and Armenia followed Turkey as the most popular destinations for Iranians.
In 2016, a total of 1.7 million Iranian tourists spent their holidays in Turkey. The report noted that Iranians on average spend six nights in Turkey and spend $1,000 per person against $630 spent by other foreign tourists.
Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, the eastern province of Van and the southern province of Antalya are the most popular destinations for Iranian vacationers.
However, the drop in the value of Iran's national currency has made many Iranian families rethink their plans for making foreign trips.
According to Ali Asghar Mounesan, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization, about seven million Iranians travelled overseas in the last Iranian year (March 2018-19), indicating a significant decline compared with the year before. As many as 10 million Iranians travelled overseas in the fiscal 2017-18.
The latest data released by Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism indicates that the number of Iranian tourists visiting Turkey, a popular tourist destination, considerably decreased in 2018.
More than 1,894,100 Iranian travelers visited Turkey during the first 11 months of 2018, which marks an 18.17% decline compared with the corresponding period of the year before when the number of Iranian visitors was 2,314,656.
Among all tourists who visited Turkey from January to November 2018, only 5.05% were Iranian.
The drop was more significant in November, as the number of Iranian travelers to Turkey decreased by 46.39% from 196,000 last November to 105,000 this year.
In November 2018, only 5.35% of all travelers who came to visit Turkey were Iranian.
Turkey 4th Biggest Origin for Iran Tourism
For the Turkish tourists, Iran is also a popular destination. Latest data show Turkey was the fourth biggest origin for tourists visiting Iran in the fiscal 2017-18 after Iraq, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan.
Iran hosted 573,849 tourists from Turkey in the fiscal 2017-18 and 444,200 in the year before (March 2016-17).
This is while the number of tourists from Iraq stood at 1,356,185 in the last Iranian year (March 2017-18) and 1,398,201 in the year before (March 2016-17).
A total of 959,653 and 981,200 tourists from Azerbaijan visited Iran over the last year and the year before, respectively.
The number of Afghan tourists who visited Iran stood at 860,079 in March 2017-18 and 683,241 in March 2016-17.