Wednesday, 26 June, 2019

Iran seeks visa waivers with 28 countries

Iran seeks reciprocal visa waiver programs with 28 countries as part of its bid to boost inbound tourism, Director of Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Masoud Soltanifar says.

“We have selected 40 countries on the basis of our top priority for attracting tourists, out of which we have sent visa waiver requests to 28 countries and are following the issue through diplomatic channels,” Press TV quoted Soltanifar as saying in Isfahan.

Moreover, the Foreign Ministry has been tasked with establishing electronic tourist visa facility known as e-visa which will lead “to a transformational change enabling everyone to apply for tourist visa from their home”, Soltanifar added.

Iranian government has further approved extending stays for visa on arrival from 15 days to 30 days.

“We are after cancelling visa requirements with the countries which provide satisfactory provisions for passage to our citizens,” Soltanifar said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said earlier this week the country is ready to offer visa-free travel to citizens of the countries that are willing to engage in reciprocal visa waiver mechanisms with the Islamic Republic.

“Citizens of the countries which are ready to waive visa requirements for Iranian nationals will also receive visa waivers from the Islamic Republic in a reciprocal move”, Zarif said Friday in a visit to Isfahan, a major tourist hub in central Iran.

Iran has dropped visa requirements for nationals of seven countries as part of its plans to boost tourism industry in the country. Citizens of Turkey, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bolivia, Egypt and Syria can travel to Iran and stay in the country without visa from 15 to 90 days.

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The country has launched an ambitious plan to boost tourism income. Soltanifar said the target is to generate $25-30 billion by attracting 20 million tourists a year.

His organization has prepared a tourism investment package including 1,020 development projects which will be introduced to prospective investors “soon”.

Last year, tourism earnings stood at $5.7 billion from 5.5 million arrivals. The figure however is dwarfed by Iranians spending on foreign tours.

According to ICHTO deputy head Morteza Rahmani Movahed, cited by local media recently, Iranian travelers spent $18 billion during the last Persian year which ended on March 21, 2015. Pilgrims on major Hajj were not included in the tally.

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Iraq was the primary destination of the Iranians who visit mostly for pilgrimage, followed by Turkey and Azerbaijan, according to Soltanifar.

Iran is among the world’s top potential tourist destinations with a treasure trove of ancient sites, including 17 places listed by the UNESCO. Tourism, however, is a neglected industry in a country which has mainly relied on oil exports for decades.

That attitude is changing in sync with the world view which is grooming tourism as the third biggest revenue generator after oil and car-making.

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