Iran, Slovakia seek to expand tourism ties

March 12, 2021 - 18:16

TEHRAN –Iran and Slovakia on Thursday held an online meeting, in which high-level tourism officials, tour operators, and hoteliers discussed ways to boost tourism ties between the two countries in the post-coronavirus era.

A key priority for Iran’s tourism sector is to restore tourism ties with previous markets and expand into new international markets such as Slovakia when the coronavirus crisis comes to an end, Mohammad Qasemi, the director for marketing and advertising at the tourism ministry said, IRNA reported.

Regarding the unique characteristics and features of Iranian tourism as a different destination for the visitors from Slovakia, he emphasized the need for enhanced private sector relationships between the two countries to lead to the development of an efficient bilateral tourism exchange.

Emphasizing the two countries’ capacity for caving, hydrotherapy, skiing, and national and natural parks, he also suggested that successful experiences be shared through training workshops and courses between the two sides.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian official reminded the tremendous impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on global tourism, adding that the Iranian government has provided support for travel businesses affected by the disease.

The Slovak delegation also hailed the expansion of ties in the arenas of tourism and cultural heritage. Moreover, the Slovak Association of Tour Operators & Travel Agents (SACKA) expressed readiness to start bilateral tourism as soon as the virus is contained. The two centuries also agreed to draft a memorandum of understanding to lay the ground for further cooperation including fam tours for media personnel and tour operators.  

Last November, the World Tourism Organization announced that international tourist arrivals to Iran plunged 72% during the first eight months of 2020 when compared to 2019, highlighting the severe impact of COVID-19 as the main factor. Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan in October 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.

Last 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. He also noted that 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. The latest available data show eight million tourists visited the Islamic Republic during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2019). Iran welcomed some 7.8 million foreign nationals a year earlier, achieving a 52.5 percent increase year on year.

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.