Tehran, Moscow ink action plan on visa-free agreement

June 7, 2021 - 16:24

TEHRAN – An action plan to implement a bilateral visa-free agreement for tourist groups has been signed between Iran and Russia. 

The plan was inked by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan and Russia’s Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism Zarina Doguzova during a meeting in Moscow on Monday, IRNA reported.  

The signing of the agreement, which emphasizes a waiver of visas for tourist groups, was due to the good relations between the two countries as well as the interest of Iranians in visiting Russia and the existing capacity in the country for cultural tourists and history buffs, said Mounesan on the sidelines of the signing ceremony. 

He also expressed hope that the signing of the joint action plan, as well as the process of increasing vaccination and overcoming the corona crisis, would result in a growth of tourism between Iran and Russia.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, over 60,000 Iranian tourists traveled to Russia every year, while more than 36,000 Russian tourists visited Iran, he explained. 

Now, with the short distance and good capacities of the two countries, this number is expected to grow even more, he added. 

For her part, Doguzova said that considering the good relations between the two countries and the excellent tourism capacities, it is necessary to boost the volume of tourists in the tourist areas of the two countries.

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

A joint technical committee has been developing an action plan for the previously agreed visa-free travel arrangements since then, in order to put the agreement into effect.

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.

Earlier this month, Mostafa Sarvari, who presides over the tourism marketing and advertising office of the Iranian Tour Operators Association, announced many Russian tourists are eager to travel to Iran, recounting his Russian counterparts. “Many [potential] Russian travelers are motivated to visit novel and lesser-known destinations such as Iran that could be a safe and attractive destination,” he said.

“According to Russian tourism experts, the feedback from Russian tourists who have traveled to Iran has been very positive, and its reflection, especially on social media, has caused a great deal of enthusiasm and interest.”

According to Ebrahim Pourfaraj, who heads the Iranian Tour Operators Association, rounds of negotiations have been held between Iranian tour operators, travel marketers, and their Russian counterparts. “We’ve been commenced talks with some Russian travel agents to put Iranian destinations on their itineraries…. And the Iranian Tour Operators Association has also entered negotiations with Russian unions for outbound tours to attract more travelers from Russia.”

Pourfaraj says the majority of potential Russian travelers are unaware of the 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.”

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.

Iran is taking proactive measures in line with the long-term goal of 20 million tourists by 2025.

ABU/MG

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