Turkey not to compensate Iranian travel agencies

Ankara will not reimburse Iranian travel agencies for losses incurred following Tehran’s one-month ban on tours to Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July, Turkey’s ambassador to Iran said.

In an interview with ISNA, Riza Hakan Tekin added that it is not “reasonable” for Iranian travel companies to expect Turkey to compensate them for losses suffered as a result of “the Iranian government’s decision to impose a ban on tours to Turkey”.

Tekin said Ankara is willing to reimburse losses incurred on the day of the coup (July 15) and the following day, but losses caused by Iran’s ban will not be compensated by Turkey. Iran imposed the ban on the popular destination a day after a faction of the Turkish military attempted to topple the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Iranian travel agents say the ban cost them more than $5.1 million in revenues.

“It took a lot of effort on our part to get the ban lifted,” Tekin said. Iranian officials say the ban was necessary due to poor security conditions and political instability in the neighboring country. Less than a week after the coup attempt, Turkey enacted a three-month-long state of emergency, which was renewed for another three months two weeks ago.

Iranian officials, including Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy at ICHHTO, have called on Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Nabi Avci to “issue orders to ensure Iranian tour operators are compensated for people canceling tours due to safety concerns in Turkey”.

ICHHTO chief, Masoud Soltanifar, and a number of travel agents held talks with Avci and other Turkish officials in late August during the Asia Cooperation Dialogue Ministerial Meeting on Tourism in this regard.

Tourist Numbers Dropping

According to Tekin, the ban apparently led to a 30% decline in inbound tourism from Iran.

“Some might have canceled their trips for personal reasons, but without a doubt the main cause of the 30% drop in the number of Iranian tourists is the ban,” he said. “This is concerning.”

The diplomat said the number of Iranian tourists had been rising steadily in the past two years, from 1.6 million in 2014 to 1.7 million in 2015, but the 30% decrease so far this year puts an end to the trend.

“Nevertheless, we believe tourism cooperation between Tehran and Ankara is growing and we’re moving forward,” he said.

Iranian officials have stressed that despite the events that unfolded in summer and the ensuing ban on tours to Turkey, relations between the two neighboring countries have not changed.

According to estimates by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies, Turkey might lose between $2.4 billion and $3 billion in tourism revenue by the end of this year, due to political turmoil and attacks by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group. The surge in violence over the past 16 months by IS and Kurdish rebels has seriously rocked the once-booming tourist industry, cutting tourism by almost 80%, some tourism agencies say.

By Financial Tribune