Iranian travel insiders, Iraqi fellows ink agreements to boost tourism

November 28, 2021 - 19:0

TEHRAN – Some 20 contracts have been signed between Iranian and Iraqi tour operators and tourism activists in Mashhad, the capital of Khorasan Razavi province, Mehr reported on Sunday.

The agreements were finalized on the sidelines of a three-day conference last week, which was conducted to introduce the province’s tourism potentials and attractions to the Iraqi travel insiders as well as deepen the ties between the two countries in tourism.

The agreements were signed to enhance the number of Iraqi tourists coming to Iran on organized tours.

Last month, over 30,000 Iraqi pilgrims visited Mashhad, making Iraq Iran’s main market for inbound tourism, Mojtaba Ahmadi, a provincial tourism official announced. 

There are also Pakistanis who wish to travel to Iran for pilgrimage despite their problems, and Oman and Kuwait are other Iranian market countries, he added. 

“So far Iraqi tourists have come to Iran and the city of Mashhad individually, living in unapproved locations, and may experience health problems or security issues,” the official explained. 

These tourists can now book tours and accommodations in licensed places at affordable prices with the help of Iraqi travel agencies, he mentioned. 

He also noted that the Iraqi side requested Iran to waive visa requirements for Iraqi nationals who want to enter the Islamic Republic via land borders.

It will increase the number of Iraqi pilgrims entering Mashhad, but careful planning is needed, he explained. 

Mashhad, the capital of Khorasan Razavi province, is Iran’s holiest and second-largest city which embraces the shrine complex of Imam Reza (AS), the eighth Shia Imam.

Before the coronavirus puts almost everything on lockdown, Mashhad, played host to thousands of travelers and pilgrims who come from various Iranian cities, neighboring countries, and even across the globe to visit the holy shrine.

According to official statistics, some 37 million Iranian pilgrims and travelers visited the shrine city of Mashhad during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year 1398 (March 21, 2019- March 10, 2020). Of whom some eight million came by road, six million by rail, 3.8 million by air, and 18 million by private cars.

For the time being, some travel experts believe the restoration of tourism flow is of high importance for the Islamic Republic. Iranian Tour Operators Director Ebrahim Pourfaraj said earlier this month that the restoration of tourism flow to the country is very important for Iranian tour operators and travel insiders.

“At the moment, we are not thinking about revenues, but we are looking for the beginning of the tourist flow to the country and renew our links [with international fellows],” Pourfaraj said. His comments came after months of steep recession triggered by massive coronavirus restrictions which led many travel insiders, hoteliers, and tour operators towards bankruptcy, unemployment, debts, and the prospects of not being competitive on the international level.

As mentioned by Pourfaraj, Iran has made its best to maintain contact with global tourism markets and companies that worked with Iran in the past, especially since virtual communication and meetings have thrived. “Following the resumption of the tourist visa, visitors from Russia and France have traveled to Iran and we are currently expecting a smaller number of tourists in Iran due to the current situation in the world,” he explained.

Iran is potentially a booming destination for travelers seeking cultural attractions, breathtaking sceneries, and numerous UNESCO-registered sites. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, Iran 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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