Coronavirus: Iran preparing to reopen doors to foreign travelers

June 5, 2020 - 20:19

TEHRAN – Iran’s tourism ministry has forecast that the country will start hosting foreign travelers as of mid-summer with the priority given to travelers from the neighboring countries.

“Based on our tourism marketing program monitoring and data analysis from the neighboring countries, the Persian Gulf littoral states, and the European Union, an initial forecast suggests that Iran will open land borders to neighbors as of 15th of Tir (July 5) and some of its air borders as of 1st of Mordad (July 22),” ISNA quoted Mohammad-Ebrahim Larijani, the director of the ministry’s advertising and marketing office, as saying on Friday.

“We are constantly monitoring [our target] countries and we have decided, in the first phase, to resume tourism interactions with the neighboring countries.”

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has plunged the travel and tourism industry and economy in the global scene over that past couple of months as passenger traffic on airlines and hotel occupancy rates have fallen off a cliff compared to the same periods previous years.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the official referred to travel demands from Oman, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, China, and Hong Kong, even in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, adding; “Apart from these applicants, we have had requests from European backpackers to travel to Iran.”

“However, the foreign nationals have cited various reasons for their visits such as trade, medical treatment, pilgrimage, education, or visiting relatives so that whenever the borders are open we can rightly determine the volume of travel demands.”

“I am sure that if the borders of Iran and Turkey are opened right now, the demand for travel to that country would be significant because many (Iranian) people have administrative, commercial, or educational affairs in Turkey.”

The official also pointed to health protocols being developing with the assistance of the Health Ministry to protect international arrivals, saying: “We are in talks with the Ministry of Health to draw up a protocol concerning foreign arrivals to the entry points. We are also setting a timetable for reopening borders to foreign nationals and tourists, given the latest conditions of the coronavirus, similar to classifications that other countries, including Turkey, have made so far.”

“Some countries are still classified in code red coronavirus status, an issue that we have included in our schedule for reestablishing tourism ties.”

Larijani underlined that the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts does not solely decide on the resumption of travel relations with other countries. “We are preparing our proposals to discuss them with the Coronavirus Combat Operations Headquarters to reach a joint decision.”

The official noted that joint consultation is currently underway with tourism ministers of 30 target countries, adding: “Iran has announced that it will welcome tourists from those countries as soon as the borders are open.”

“We are doing soft marketing as the government share and we expect the private sector also take action.”

Larijani then called on travel agencies to review the target market countries and not rely on the capacity of neighboring countries and East Asia. The official proposed them to prepare a variety of tour packages tailored to the needs of specified travelers. 

Deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri said earlier in May that Iran’s tourism industry will get back on the right track sooner than expected thanks to measures taken to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

“I believe that tourism industry of the country will get back on the right track far sooner than generally expected thanks to the measures taken to deal with the spread of coronavirus in tourist destinations, hotels, stopovers, and all the centers which are affiliated with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts,” Teymouri said in an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times.

Referring to foreign arrivals, Teymouri said that international tourism could be recovered soon because it is mostly relying on potential travelers and pilgrims from the neighboring countries.

“Given the policies of the country’s tourism industry over the past two years to focus on tourism markets in the neighboring countries, the possibility of recovering and reviving international tourism in the shortest possible time is predictable.”

Some experts expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

The Islamic Republic expects to reap a bonanza from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 24 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, it 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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