Iran sets sights on tourism rebound if coronavirus wanes, minister says

October 5, 2020
tourism

TEHRAN – The Islamic Republic of Iran is developing necessary infrastructure in the realms of traveling, accommodation, and human resources as it eyeing to jumpstart travels whenever coronavirus restrictions ease, Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan told the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

The country is also conducting separate in-depth surveys to discover strong and weak points, the needs and wants of potential travelers from target countries including the neighboring states, China and Russia, Mounesan said.

“We have selected a number of states as target countries, such as ones located in our region, Russia and China, the latter due to having a huge rate of [outbound] travelers which hits 150 million people [per annum].

“Iran is chock-full of cultural and historical sites, monuments and relics, and it offers significant opportunities for ecotourism and nature tourism as well… Our desert hiking tours are professionally developed and offer quality services…. For the time being, we have professional nature and ecotourism tours that foreign travelers, and in particular Russian tourists can enjoy.”

To facilitate travelers, we, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have so far waived visas for passport holders from China and Oman.”

Mounesan underlined that for visa waiver with Russia, Iran preferred its implication to be paused by delay to have time to conduct special assessments on kinds of potential Russian travelers, its demographic characteristics amongst others.

The main reason behind this is that we intend to improve the travel balance between Tehran and Moscow, he underlined.

“As for the cancellation of visas for certain travel groups from Iran and Russia, this issue has been raised for more than two years. But we preferred to postpone that visa waiver program because to have time to meet the needs of typical Russian travelers who are interested in culture, nature, and sightseeing travels,” Mounesan explained.

“Over the past two years, with learning from our previous experience of visa waivers for Oman and China, we have monitored the Russian market, and God willing, this visa cancellation will happen soon and we hope to have a good share of [inbound] travelers from Russia.”

“By monitoring the Russian tourism market, we came to the conclusion that the share of tourists interested in cultural and historical sites as well as the number of Muslims living in Russia, is significant.”

Responding to a question about Iran’s trump’s cards for drawing travelers, the minister said: “Iran is chock-full of cultural and historical sites, monuments and relics, and it offers significant opportunities for ecotourism and nature tourism as well.”

“Regarding the development of our tourism infrastructure, it can be reminded that our eco-tourism resorts now exist and are operational in almost all parts of the country.”

“Our desert hiking tours are professionally developed and offer quality services…. For the time being, we have professional nature and ecotourism tours that foreign travelers, and in particular Russian tourists can enjoy.”

Talking on China, as one of the major travel markets for the Islamic Republic, Mounesan said: “We have started measures for the Chinese market…. One of our biggest issues is the lack of adequate Chinese-speaking tour leaders…”

“To solve the problem, we have had several meetings with the Chinese ambassador [to Iran Chang Hua] so far and we have received good promises from him …. The ambassador had even announced his readiness to dispatch about 10-15 people to China for training.”

“Regarding the accommodation, very good tourist complexes have being constructed and are operational across intercity roads, and one of which is really first-class…”

In 2017, President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for tourist groups. The agreement, however, seems to be implemented in the near future as a joint technical committee on Wednesday reached an initial agreement in this regard.

Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ibrahim Pourfaraj said last year that a majority of potential Russian travelers are unaware of vast tourist attractions that exist in every corner of Iran. “The fact is that Iran’s political and economic relations with Russia are considered as 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,” he explained.

Mounesan’s deputy for tourism, Vali Teymouri, said earlier this week that regulations and rules for launching responsible and “smart” package tours are being formulated by senior experts of the tourism ministry in close cooperation with counterparts of the health ministry in a bid to somehow restart the sector which has come to a standstill since the coronavirus outbreak. “Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, which has dramatically plunged travels in the country, we are currently planning to save the tourism industry from [the immense] damage caused by the outbreak,” Teymouri stated.

The 2019 Travel Risk Map, which shows the risk level around the world, puts Iran among countries with “insignificant risk”, a category where the UK, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, and Finland are placed in. The map shows the risk level in each country and territory based on the current threat posed to travelers by political violence (including terrorism, insurgency, politically motivated unrest, and war), social unrest (including sectarian, communal, and ethnic violence), and violent and petty crime.

Iran has set a target to attract 20 million foreign tourists annually by 2025.

tehrantimes



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