Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are enjoying a welcome injection of revenues from the annual influx of Iranians enjoying their long Nowruz Persian new year holiday.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the number of Iranians heading to the South Caucasus for part of the two-week long festive break is on the rise. That's at least the case in Armenia, where, according to a report published by Eurasianet on March 26 the aviation authorities say that on top of the regular Iran-Armenia flights, an additional 40 flights were scheduled for this March and April. “We don’t know how many Iranians are going to visit Armenia this year, but we know that every year the number is growing,” Zarmine Zeituntsian, chairwoman of the State Commission for Tourism told the Panorama news service.
Last year 220,000 Iranians visited Armenia, a 16% increase from 2016, according to official data cited by Eurasianet. Georgia hosted 322,000, while Azerbaijan had the largest number of Iranian visitors, at 362,000. Iranians, for instance, very often follow their favourite domestic bands into the South Caucasus when they journey out on regional tours.
Tour operators in all three countries compete for the Iranian market, with online or on-the-ground advertising events, but there seem to be plenty of Iranians to go around, the news server said, quoting Giorgi Lobzhanidze, an Iranian studies professor at Tbilisi State University, as saying: “[Georgia] is cheap, close and safe, and they can get a European experience here”.
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