Iran, Afghanistan seek to bolster tourism ties

December 26, 2020 - 23:44

TEHRAN – Iran and Afghanistan are set to extend mutual tourism ties both in the current coronavirus era and when the pandemic is contained.  

Iranian deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri, his Afghan counterpart Mojgan Mostafavi and several other experts discussed ways to facilitate travels between the two neighbors in a webinar held on Friday. 

The attendees explored strategies to develop tourism even during the outbreak of the virus as well. 

Holding meetings of the joint tourism committees between Iran and Afghanistan periodically and continuously could lead to extensive achievements as well as new plans for facing tourism issues in the special conditions of these days, Teymouri said. 

He announced Iran’s readiness to strengthen cooperation in the field of tourism education between the two countries by holding training workshops and participating and assisting in the evaluation and rating of Afghanistan’s tourism facilities. 

He also emphasized reopening the borders of the two countries to let Afghan health tourists in, observing strict health protocols. 

The worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, and tourism has been the worst affected of all major economic sectors. 

Back in March, the UN specialized agency for tourism announced that it expected international tourist arrivals would be down by 20 percent to 30 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures.

However, last week the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announced that world tourist arrivals fell by 72% over the first ten months of the year. 

Restrictions on travel, low consumer confidence, and a global struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic are amongst factors contributing to the worst year on record in the history of tourism.

Iran has also suffered the same fate as its foreign arrivals plunged 72% during the first eight months of the year when compared to 2019. 

Critical situation

In October, Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan warned that Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism will be in a critical situation if the crises caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus continue.

In August, Mounesan said that Iran’s tourism has suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The tourism industry of the country was growing and progressing well but unfortunately, it has faced the coronavirus outbreak, which brought the industry into a standstill.”

“Many tourism projects have been completed, or are being implemented, showing that a very good capacity has been created in the field of tourism in the country and [this trend] should not be stopped,” he explained.

The minister said the coronavirus pandemic should not bring traveling to a complete standstill. “Corona is a fact, but can the virus stop tourism? Certainly not. For us, the coronavirus is a new experience in dealing with crises that teaches tourism experts around the world how to deal with such a disaster, and thankfully governments are turning this into an opportunity for better planning.”

Optimistic forecasts, however, 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.

Iran 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. 

ABU/AFM
 

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