Thousands of Iranian nationals have flooded to the eastern city of Van close to the border to spend their Ramadan Bayram vacation, also known as Eid al-Fitr, with local businesses celebrating the surprise increase in sales. The three-day Ramadan Bayram, coming after a month of fasting, begins on Tuesday, but many combine it with the weekend before and after to enjoy a nine-day vacation. The region's business had taken a serious dent after the escalation of PKK terrorism. Iranians, who enjoyed a 13-day Nowruz holiday to be followed by several days of Ramadan holiday, took the opportunity to enjoy the local attractions in and around Van, while shopping in local markets.
Shebnem Rizapour, who said she and her family loved Van, argued that the proximity of the city was the main attraction. "We also like touring the province and love the people."
Shopkeeper Abdullah Abukan said, "When Iranians are absent, our businesses suffer. Our entire livelihood depends on them. Thank god they are here. The last bayram was a disappointment, but this time around things couldn't be better."
The head of Van's Chamber of Trade and Industry, Necdet Takva, said Iranians had saved the local economy. "We need to be thankful for the Iranian penchant of coming here at a time when the national economy has taken hit after hit in the past year. We believe our efforts to promote the province in Iran for the past two years also had an influence on Iranian nationals flocking here."
Takva said the local economy had taken a dive after the earthquake in October 2011, with Iranian tourists providing hope for the future. "We are also calling on local shopkeepers to appreciate our Iranian neighbors and not to charge them higher prices. The entire economy is transforming due to the influx of Iranian tourists, with the service sector hiring more Persian speakers."