Visa waiver to improve balance of Tehran-Moscow tourism: official

September 18, 2020 - 17:11

TEHRAN – Visa-free travel for group tours between Iran and Russia could proffer equal conditions for both nations, Mohammad Qasemi, the director for marketing and advertising at the ministry of tourism has said. 

“This agreement provides equal conditions for both sides, now it is the private sector effort of the two countries as well as the approach of the nominated agencies, which determines which side will benefit from this exchange.”

In 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for tourist groups. 

The agreement, which emphasizes on visas waiver for tourist groups could bring more money to the country financially than tourists who travel individually, the official added, CHTN reported on Friday.

“Tourism is a two-way street...in this trade, one cannot act spontaneously and one-sidedly.” 

Certainly, the result will not be entirely in one side’s favor if the agencies focus only on sending tourists to the other country instead of attracting them. 

He also noted that this agreement could build trust both among the people of the other country as well as in the minds of citizens of the countries around the world. 
 
Referring to Russia as a neighboring country, which has high trade, economic and political relations with Iran, he mentioned that as Russian-speaking countries in Iran’s neighborhood are part of the country’s target markets, they might trust and follow Russia in its tourism policies.

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 earlier last week. 

Iran’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts also announced that an Iranian delegation will soon visit Russia to ink the action plan.

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.

ABU/AFM
 

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