ANKARA Turkish investors will be allowed to build at least 10 hotels in Iran, a Turkish tourism ministry official said on Friday, as the two countries look to increase bilateral trade after international sanctions on Iran were lifted in January.
The hotels would be built in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Mashhad, the official said, under the terms of an agreement with Iran signed during a Turkish delegation's visit to Tehran that started on Thursday.
The agreement includes incentives for investment and allows more charter flights between the neighboring countries, he said.
Ankara and Tehran are on different sides of Syria's civil war, but they have so far managed to keep separate their political differences and efforts to bolster trade and banking after sanctions were lifted.
"We will transfer our know-how on training, planning, marketing and advertising to raise tourism standards in Iran," the official told Reuters, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Turkey and Iran will also organize joint tours for the Asian market that will include visiting cities in southeast Turkey and Iran, the official said, adding the agreement was signed during a Turkish delegation visit to Tehran that started on Thursday.
Tourism industry officials expect more than 2 million Iranians to visit Turkey this year, up from 1.7 million last year. In the first four months of 2016, there has been a 7 percent increase on last year.
That's a rare bit of good news for Turkey's tourism industry, which has seen revenues tumble nearly 17 percent in the first quarter, hit by a series of militant bombings and worsening ties with Russia.
Shi'ite Iran has stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising against him, while mainly Sunni Turkey has been one of Assad's fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters.
Sectarian divisions have flared up in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia's Sunni allies rallying behind it as it cut diplomatic ties with Iran, the region's main Shi'ite power. Turkey has close ties with Riyadh.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan, Larry King)