Iran considering to give Russian tourists visa-free entry to help boost visitors

December 27, 2019 - 18:28

TEHRAN – Iran is considering to allow Russian tourists visa-free entry into the country to boost tourism, after it granted same privilege for some other nationals including Chinese and Omani passport holders.

Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan has said that Iranian and Russian officials are set to sign a visa waiver agreement in the near future, IRNA reported on Thursday.

The Iranian minister, however, didn’t provide more details.

He made the remakes in a meeting with a number of Iranian ambassadors and consulate generals in Behshahr, Mazandaran province, voicing hope that tourism, as an emerging economy in Iran could be flourished soon, adding “there are very good capacities at present and we have 24 globally-registered [cultural and natural] properties and over a thousand ones on the national heritage list.”

“With striking regional customs, pristine nature and attractive landscapes, our country will surely witness a tourism boom in the coming years,” Mounesan said.

Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association believes that a majority of potential Russian travelers are unaware of vast tourist attractions that exist in every corner of Iran. “The fact is that Iran’s political and economic relations with Russia are considered as good, but this has nothing to do with attracting tourists because it is directly connected with the Russian people. It is the Russian people who must choose Iran as their destination,” Ebrahim Pourfaraj said in August.

In June 2017, Iran’s tourism body emphasized the need to achieve a reasonable balance in the two-way tourist exchange with Russia. In the same year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for certain tourist groups. Based on the agreement tour groups of 5 to 50 people heading to Russia from Iran or vice versa are granted a visa-free stay of up to 15 days.

The number of Chinese arrivals in the Islamic Republic increased as of late June since the country allowed visa-free entry for visitors from China, deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri said in November. “Some 14,000 Chinese nationals visited Iran during the [Iranian] months of Mordad, Shahrivar and Mehr (July 23 – October 22), which shows 12 percent growth year on year,” Teymouri said.

Back in September, the cabinet of ministers approved to maintain a visa waiver program for Omani nationals which had been ratified in September 2018 for a one-year period. The two countries are in talks to do the same for Iranian travelers.

Iran welcomed some four million foreign nationals during the first five months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21 – August 22), which shows 30 percent hike, compared with the same period last year, according to official data compiled by the Ministry of Tourism. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, the country aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

AFM/MG

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