Tehran, Moscow sign memorandum of understanding on tourism

May 20, 2023 - 20:53

TEHRAN - Iran and Russia on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to expand tourism cooperation.

The MoU was inked by Ali Asghar Shalbafian, Iranian deputy minister of cultural heritage, tourism, and handicrafts, and Dmitry Vakhrukov, Russia’s deputy minister of economic development on the sidelines of the 14th International Economic Forum “Russia-Islamic world” held in Kazan.

Under the agreement, related Iranian and Russian ministries will jointly push forward the implementation of a visa-free agreement signed in 2017 for granting visa waivers to tour groups from the two countries.

Among other things, the MoU also aims to strengthen bilateral tourism cooperation and promote tourism exchanges between the two sides, including the exchange of tourism experts and the exchange of experience and information.

Shalbafian said at the signing ceremony that Russia could become a high-priority tourism market for Iran.

Vakhrukov, for his part, expressed hope that Iranian tourists could be granted visa-free entry to Russia as of summer.

The officials exchanged views on prospects of a visa waiver for tourist groups, based on an initial agreement that former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked in 2017.

Emerging destination

Ivan Malofeev from the Moscow City Tourism Committee believes that Iran, as a travel destination, is still obscure for potential Russian travelers, noting its Islamic culture may be a strong incentive to draw sightseers.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Islamic culture is expected to be a significant factor for some Russians to visit Iran, Malofeev told ILNA in an interview published earlier this year.

Regarding Russian tourists' awareness of Iran as an emerging destination, Malofiov said: “My opinion is that although we are now witnessing the development and expansion of relations between the two countries, that caution still exists among many Russians whether it is possible to travel to these new countries or not.”

As mentioned by Ebrahim Pourfaraj, who presides over the Iranian Tour Operators Association, 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 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.”

The Islamic Republic 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 26 are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.


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