Iran considers opening borders to vaccinated travelers

May 21, 2021 - 18:3

TEHRAN – Iran is weighing plans to open its borders to vaccinated tourists though it isn’t yet clear exactly when tourists will be allowed to arrive.

The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts have already started extensive consultations with other government ministries for the reopening of borders to vaccinated travelers, the deputy minister Vali Teymouri said on Wednesday.

“One of the issues that we are pursuing strongly through various committees is the arrival of international citizens who have been vaccinated so that won’t pose a threat or concern to the Iranian society,” the official said.

“We have put forward the proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and to the President (Hassan Rouhani) as well.”

He went on to say that other countries are planning to open borders to vaccinated tourists.

“We estimate that soon, various tourist destinations in the world, including the European Union, will open their doors to international tourists implementing a vaccine-passport approach….”

Earlier in March, the Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ebrahim Pourfaraj asked the government to issue tourist visas for the international applicants who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “The Ministry of Health and the National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control can at least agree that the international tourists who have received the [second dose of] coronavirus vaccine would be allowed to enter Iran,” Pourfaraj said.

He also lamented that the continuation of such a trend would result in losing international tourist markets more than before. “Or at least they should make it clear so that we can respond appropriately to foreign companies and tourists to not to miss the international tourist markets more than before,” he said.

According to available data compiled by the tourism ministry, the number of foreign visitors to Iran plunged 94% in the first nine months of the past Iranian calendar year (ended March 20, 2021) as the coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on the tourism industry.

“Some 450,000 foreign travelers arrived in Iran for mainly medical or trade purposes during the first nine months of the year… tightened measures to tackle the new coronavirus has reduced international travel to the country by 94 percent,” Teymouri said.

The coronavirus epidemic has ruined more than 1.5 million jobs in Iran’s travel sector, tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan said in December. “Over 1.5 million jobs have been lost in the tourism sector of Iran due to the COVID-19 disease…. Many of the tourism-insiders are now unemployed or they are staying at home,” Mounesan said.

Smart and responsible traveling should replace “do not travel” recommendations, the minister stressed, adding: “In our country, Corona has caused problems in the tourism industry and the worrying point is the continuation of this trend.”

Tourism [industry of Iran] was growing before the corona [outbreak], its revenues reached $11.7 billion in 2019, which accounted for 2.8% of GDP, near the average share of tourism in the world GDP, which was 3.2 percent, the minister explained.

The ancient land embraces hundreds of historical sites 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, the country aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

AFM

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