Turkey's tourism sector will receive a boost as an estimated 280,000 Iranians are expected to visit the country over the next three weeks on the occasion of Nevruz, which celebrates the coming of spring.
A public holiday in Iran, Nevruz usually sees huge numbers of people traveling to Turkey and this March, Iranian tourists were expected to take hotel occupancy rates in some major cities to 80 percent and contribute around $250 million to Turkey's economy.
The tourism sector is bracing for the influx of Iranian tourists to begin this weekend and eventually peak at 280,000 by April 3. Tourists from Iran will travel to eastern Turkey's Van by road and by air to other major cities like Istanbul and Antalya. They were also expected to occupy hotels in Bursa, Yalova and in different cities along the Black Sea coast. Hotels in Van have already been booked out 100 percent while bookings in Antalya and Istanbul remain around 80 percent.
Turkey Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Chairman Firuz Bağlıkaya said last year almost 250,000 Iranians celebrated Nevruz in Turkey. "This year that number has gone up by more than 10 percent and some 280,000 Iranians will visit Turkey."
Bağlıkaya said that Van, Istanbul and Antalya were the top three destinations for Iranian tourist. "These three cities only would receive more than 180,000 Iranian tourists while approximately 100,000 will be distributed around Bursa, Yalova, Trabzon and other provinces." He said that the tourists on average will spend over $1,000 per person. "During this period, Van will accommodate about 60,000 Iranian tourists. The hotel occupancy rate there will reach 100 percent. The city is also holding ‘Van Shopping Fest' which will boost the local economy."
Timur Bayındır, chairman of Hotel Association of Turkey (TÜROB), said Istanbul will host some 60,000 Iranian tourists during Nevruz. He noted that hotel occupancy rate, especially in the Taksim area will hit 80 percent and shopping malls will see some serious mobility.
Erkan Kaplan, CEO of Narkissos Tourism, one of Iran's biggest tour operators, said those with a smaller budget would come to Van by road, while people in the upper-income groups prefer Antalya and Istanbul.
Chairman of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association (AKTOB) Erkan Yağcı said of about 1,100 hotels in Antalya, 900 are open.
"The average occupancy rate at these hotels now is 60 percent. However, with the arrival of Iranian tourists starting this weekend, the occupancy will reach about 80 percent," Yağcı said.
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