Tuesday, 25 July, 2017

Iran in visa waiver talks with India, China, two other countries

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Having abolished the visa regime with Armenia and Georgia earlier this year, Iran is now in talks with Russia, Azerbaijan, India and China to promote visa-free travel.

Ali Baqer Nemati Zargaran, director of the Promotion and Marketing Office at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told ISNA on Thursday that his office is pursuing the issue.

While the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Affairs Office leads the negotiations, “we’re working closely with them”, he said.

Developing tourism is integral to Iran’s plans for jumpstarting its stagnant economy and facilitating travel into the country is key to making that happen.

China and India are the fastest growing travel markets, with Chinese tourists cultivating a reputation as big spenders.

While Russia’s outbound tourism has been declining due to the weakening of the ruble, it is still considered a lucrative market for Iran, due to Russian interest in cultural and historical heritage.

Citizens of Azerbaijan do not need a visa to travel to Iran, a courtesy that will soon be reciprocated, according to Zargaran, who said an agreement has been signed to facilitate visa procedures for Iranians.

“Based on the first phase of the agreement, Iranians will be granted visa on arrival,” he said. “The second phase targets the total waiver of visa requirements.”

While the ministry insists that it will only issue visa waivers if the move is reciprocated, some industry players say unilaterally abolishing the visa regime in certain cases may be more beneficial.

However, the ICHHTO sides with the Foreign Ministry.

“The ministry’s stance here is correct. Unilaterally abolishing visa procedures will not help improve the global standing of Iran’s passport,” Zargaran added.

A passport’s strength is calculated based on the freedom of travel it provides, i.e. the number of countries the passport holder can travel to without applying for a visa. Iran currently ranks 92, according to Passport Index.

Via: Financial Tribune

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