Sanctions ease 'boosting Iranian tourism'

ISTANBUL - The easing of Western sanctions against Iran has boosted the number of Iranian citizens visiting Turkey, according to new data.

The number of Iranian tourists traveling to Turkey increased by 44 percent in the first two months of 2014 compared to the same period of last year; this is expected to increase much more by the end of 2014, according to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The number of Iranian tourists visiting Turkey in 2013 was around 1.2 million but the expectation is that this figure is to reach 1.7 million this year, a rise of around 50%.

This increase came after the West eased some economic sanctions against Iran amid talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

In 2010, the U.S. and the European Union had tightened sanctions against Iran's banks and oil industry amid suspicions that Iran's nuclear program had military aims. To comply with these sanctions, Turkey also decreased the amount of oil it imports from the country.

On November, 2013, Iran's government agreed to give Western powers more scrutiny of the country's nuclear program for six months. In exchange, Western capitals decided to ease their sanctions.

Speaking to The Anadolu Agency, chairman of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies [TURSAB], Basaran Ulusoy, said that sanctions move had affected tourism positively in Turkey and predicted a serious increase in numbers within this year.

"We predict a 40% or 50% increase in the number of Iranians coming to Turkey in 2014. An increase of around 44% seen in January and February of 2014 justified our predictions," he said.

Nevruz -- the March new year spring festival celebrated in Iran and other Asian countries -- is the other important factor cited for the increase in numbers of Iranians coming to Turkey.

"According to the statistics, they [Iranians] prefer to come to Turkey generally in August and September. March, which includes Nevruz celebrations, is also a month when Iranians come to Turkey most," Ulusoy said.

Southern Turkish cities of Antalya, Mugla [Bodrum], Aydin [Kusadasi] and central Turkish locations of Konya and Ankara are the most popular destinations for Iranians, Ulusoy said, adding that Istanbul attracted nearly 387,000 Iranians in 2013.

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