More than a million Iranians visit Turkey each year; most of them flock to Turkish Mediterranean resort town of Antalya. The Financial Times in a report from Tehran discusses Iranian obsession to visit Antalya. Such is the enthusiasm that hardliners in parliament have vowed to restrict the travel agencies' promotion of overseas tourist attractions.
"They [Iran's rulers] think if we do not mention the name of Antalya, people won't go. But the fact is that lots of people want to go [to Antalya] ," says a travel agent in Tehran who promotes Mediterranean packages [Financial Times, 30 July].
The Antalya resorts offer lively nightlife and access to mixed beaches that are denied to Iranians at home. Moreover, Antalya hotels generally offer better levels of service and cheaper prices than the resorts in Iran’s Caspian Sea and Kish Island. A one-week package to Antalya including flights and full-board ranges from $500 to $1,000 a person. A standard two-bed room in a top hotel in one of Caspian resorts, complete with social restrictions, costs about $200 per night. The figure for a similar room on the Gulf island of Kish in the south, is usually more than $150.
"A one-week tour package to Thailand or Malaysia or Turkey is cheaper than the same package to Kish — and the levels of service are much higher," says Mustafa Shafe'ei Shakib, a member of the Iranian Travel Agencies Guild Association.
Banned singers and dancers, most of whom live abroad, also flock to destinations popular with Iranians. Googoosh, a legendary pop singer, and Mohammad Khordadian, a renowned classical dancer, are performing in Antalya this week to sold-out crowds of visiting Iranians.
Local travel agents believe that out of the six million trips taken by Iranians overseas each year, more than one million people go to Turkey for a holiday or for shopping — or both. The figure is not much below that for the combined number of Iranian pilgrims visiting shrines in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq.
File Photo: Antalya, Turkey / AP