Iran, the rising star of tourism

Iran, the rising star of tourism

Turkey’s most important tourism destination, Antalya, will host the fifth International Resort Tourism Congress next weekend on the heels of last week’s G-20 Summit. 

The Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED), the Association of Mediterranean Tourism (AKTOB) and the Ekin Group, a publication focusing on tourism, organized the conference “Tourism of the Future, the Future of Tourism,” which provided a good opportunity to discuss tourism trends in the world. Of course, it also questioned the future of tourism in Turkey. 

This is because Turkey has been growing in tourism at two-digit figures every year for the past 25 years, but it is expected to complete 2015 with $5 billion in losses because of the Syrian crisis and economic fluctuations in Russia. 

According to experts, if you also add the hottest topic in the world, terror, into the equation, then question marks about tourism in 2016 are increasing. As a matter of fact, in the security section of the Tourism Competition Index of the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranks 121 among 142 countries. 

While tourism executives are trying to reach new markets like China, India and South Africa, it also appears that Turkey will have to compete with a new rival in the region. 

That new rival is Iran, which is in the process of normalization with the West. 

The CEO of the Ekin Group, Fehmi Köfteoğlu, said they would especially focus on Iran in a report they will submit to the tourism congress. 

Iran was also the star of the World Travel Fair in London held at the beginning of November, he said. “Iran’s stand at the fair was five to six times bigger when compared to past years.”

There is a special section dedicated to Iran in the global trends in tourism report prepared by the World Travel Market and Euromonitor International.

Along with the historic and cultural heritage accumulated through the centuries, Iran is expected to become an important destination in faith tourism as well as adventure tourism thanks to its 20 ski centers. However, because of its years of isolation and sanctions, its infrastructure has long been neglected. 

But Köfteoğlu said tourism investments would pour into Iran as the country becomes a favorite of foreign travel agencies. As part of new steps taken for tourism, the Iranian government has introduced a visa-on-arrival system for foreigners such as Germans, French and Russians.  

When asked about new trends in tourism, Köfteoğlu talked about two trends likely to shape the future of tourism. The first is the “all-inclusive” system that has made Antalya a global brand, which will be replaced by the new trend of short vacations, city vacations, culture and adventure vacations. The second is that the power of the consumer has increased because of hotel evaluation websites. 

Köfteoğlu also touched on a new concept I had never heard of: “Hybrid tourism.” This expression is used for modern tourists who display seeming contradictory behavior such as flying with a cheap airline but staying at a luxury hotel. It is also used for the combination of hotels and hospitals, universities and museums. 

This example alone is proof of how complicated tourism has become. 

As Hakan Ateş, the CEO of DenizBank, one of the sponsors of the International Resort Tourism Congress said, “Tourism is Turkey’s petrol” but there is so much competition in oil: The prices are falling!