Iraqi nationals top list of foreign tourist arrivals in Kordestan

January 5, 2020 - 20:14

TEHRAN – Iraqi travelers constituted the largest source of foreign arrivals in the western Iranian province of Kordestan during the first three quarters of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2019), compared to the same period last year, provincial tourism chief has said.

“Iraqi tourists ranked first for visiting Kordestan province in the first nine months of the year,” ISNA quoted Esmaeil Marivani as saying on Saturday.

“Statistics indicate a gradual increase in the number of Iraqi tourists arriving in Kordestan as of Farvardin (the first month of the Iranian year), compared to tourists from other countries, especially from Europe.”

“17,699 foreign travelers, of whom some 60 percent were Iraqi nationals, visited Kordestan in the nine-month period with an average accommodation of two nights,” the official noted.

He voiced hope that such a growing trend of foreign arrivals will be maintained by better planning and deeper cooperation with the private sector and other relevant bodies.

The number of Iraqi nationals visiting Iran gained momentum in 2019 as the Islamic Republic endeavored to boost its tourism revenues in the face of U.S. sanctions.

“Until May, 2,500 entry visas were issued daily by the Consulate General of Iran in Najaf, which began issuing 5,000 a day in July, Iran’s economic charge d’affaires in Najaf, Aref Abbasi said,” Al-Monitor reported in June last year.

Mousa Tabatabai, the assistant to Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad, told Al-Monitor, “The number of Iraqis arriving in Iran for religious tourism and treatment is growing bigger on a yearly basis. This is added to those who travel to Iran to see their relatives. The visas are issued depending on the demand.”

“There are 2-3 million Iraqis arriving in Iran every year. Such a figure will more likely increase as the visas have become free of charge between the two countries,” Tabatabai explained.

During Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq in March 2019, the neighbors agreed to waive visa fees.

Some two million Iraqi nationals visited Iran during the first seven months of the past Iranian calendar year (ended on March 20), constituting Iran’s largest source of inbound passengers. In return, hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims head for the holy Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala each year.

Some 6.7 million foreign nationals visited Iran during the first nine months of the current Iranian calendar year, IRNA reported.

“Since the beginning of this year, 6.7 million foreign nationals holding visas have arrived in the country,” Mojtaba Karimi who presides over Foreign Ministry’s visa and passport department said in December 2019.

The country welcomed some 7.8 million foreign nationals last year, achieving 52.5 percent increase year on year. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, Iraq was the main source of tourism for Iran in 2018, constituting 24% of all inbound visitors. Azerbaijan with (17%), Turkey (8%), Pakistan (4%) and Bahrain (2%) constituted other major sources while the remaining 46% came from the rest of the world.

AFM/MG

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