Iran, Russia visa waiver for group tours on verge of reality

September 11, 2020 - 19:2

TEHRAN – In 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for tourist groups. The agreement, however, seems to be implemented in the near future as a joint technical committee on Wednesday reached an initial agreement in this regard.

The action plan for the [previously-reached] visa-free travel for group tours between the two countries was finalized after Iranian, Russian experts exchanged views in a virtual meeting on Wednesday, according to Iran’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts.

“An Iranian delegation will soon visit Russia to ink the action plan,” said Mohammad Qasemi, the director for marketing and advertising at the ministry of tourism.

“The agreement, which emphasizes on visas waiver for tourist groups, was signed on March 28, 2017, in Moscow, between Iranian and the Russian governments. That agreement required a plan of action, which a (joint) technical committee was required to approve… however, the coronavirus changed the time schedule,” Qasemi explained.

Last February, Iran’s tourism ministry announced that it would follow up on the agreement at the [27th edition] Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), which was scheduled to be held from March 17 to 19.

Based on the 2017 agreement tour groups of 5 to 50 people heading to [easternmost parts of] Russia from Iran or vice versa are granted a visa-free stay of up to 15 days.

Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, had told Sputnik that the visa agreement may significantly surge the tourist flows between the two countries, just like it happened when a similar deal was signed between Russia and China. The flow of Iranian tourists to Russia increased by 50-70 percent following the operation of direct flights that connect Iran to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Sochi, she said.

Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ibrahim Pourfaraj said last year 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,” he explained.

Iran is taking proactive measures in line with the long-term goal of 20 million tourists by 2025. However, some officials believe the country is nowhere close to the point of reaching its full tourism potential and lagging far behind neighboring countries like Turkey.

AFM/MG

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