Qatar World Cup should alter Iran tourism, expert says 

April 19, 2022 - 20:41

TEHRAN – The Qatar World Cup should be a turning point in Iran’s tourism industry, the Head of the Iranian Tour Operators has said.

“By attracting World Cup spectators to Iran, the Iranian tourism industry could secure a brighter future,” ILNA quoted Ebrahim Pourfaraj as saying on Tuesday. 

Yet, it is necessary to determine whether the necessary infrastructure is available, from visa issuance to accommodations and hospitality, the expert added. 

While the government has decided to offer free visas for the World Cup spectators, it is still imperative that the country prepares for the possibility of a large number of tourists during the tournament and it must ensure that the infrastructure for the issuance of visas is in place so that the process will be as easy as possible, he explained. 

There is also a need for the Iranian southern islands of Kish and Qeshm to re-affirm their accommodation centers’ capacity to receive foreign travelers, he noted. 

In addition to being a busy season for foreign tourists, autumn is also a popular time for domestic tourists to visit Kish and Qeshm, he explained. 

Although Kish can receive a large number of passengers, it must notify tour operators and announce its readiness before the World Cup spectators arrive, he mentioned. 

He also noted that the World Cup spectators are young and energetic, so their travel plans and needs are different from those of usual foreign tourists visiting Iran, who are in their 50s or so. This way, they require special travel packages.

Earlier this month, Iranian media reported that the government mulls over a visa simplification procedure at the suggestion of its Foreign Ministry to draw spectators from the neighboring Qatar which plays host to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in November and December.

The Iranian government has been required to grant a free visa to citizens whose national football teams qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for a one-time or a two-time period with a validity period of two months and a 30-day stay.

Additionally, nationals of all countries (except those from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Somalia, Sri Lanka) who are subject to tourist visa requirements as well as all nationals of the U.S., UK, and Canada can apply for a free visa once, twice or multiple times if they provide a ticket from Doha.

Free visas can encourage World Cup spectators to visit Iran during the event, some experts say.  

Back in February, Iranian tourism minister Ezzatollah Zarghami said that Iran must take an immense opportunity to be provided by the upcoming Qatar World Cup to properly introduce the county to the international spectators of the major event. 

“A significant number of travelers, mostly young people, would arrive in Qatar to attend the World Cup… It provides an exceptional opportunity for us to properly introduce tourist attractions of the country,” he added. 

“Over the past months, we have prepared some plans to arrack attendees to the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer championship.”

The minister said many people are interested to visit Iran for its historical attractions and ecotourism to name a few.

Furthermore, Zarghami’s deputy for tourism, Ali-Asghar Shalbafian, has said the landmark event gives Iran a chance to dwindle the so-called anti-Iranian sentiments known as Iranophobia. “Qatar’s World Cup offers a unique opportunity to introduce destinations near the host country, and we should take advantage of this opportunity to confront Iranophobia.”

To make good use of this occasion, it is necessary to develop consensus among the relevant agencies, and if this does not occur, it will be detrimental to the country, Shalbafian explained.

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.