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Visa waiver golden opportunity for Russian, Iranian tourism sector

– Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ali Asghar Munesan has described visa waiver for group tours as a golden opportunity for Iranian and Russian touring agencies.

In a Monday meeting in Moscow, Mounesan and Head of Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism Doguzova Zarina Valeriyevna finalized a joint plan to put into practice a visa-free agreement, which was signed in March 2017.

Tehran and Moscow’s decision to lift the visa requirement for tourist groups became effective as of June 7.

Mounesan, who is in Russia to sign the document, wrote on his twitter account that the signing of this document with Ms. Dugozuva facilitated international trips between the two countries up to the end of the year 2023 for the two states’ touring agencies.

The agreement on lifting the visa requirement for the two countries’ tourist groups was initially signed on March 28, 2017, but in order to implement it, arranging a joint action plan was needed.

According to this agreement, groups of five to 50 Iranian or Russian tourists can travel to each other’s countries without requiring any visa. It is worth mentioning that the trips will happen of course after both countries can overcome the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the emerge of the pandemic, more than 60,000 Iranian tourists visited Russia annually and 36,000 Russians visited Iran, said Mounesan, expressing hope that after lifting the visa requirement and getting rid of the corona disease, the number of travels will increase, keeping in mind the close distance between the two countries.

Earlier, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov signed a protocol to ease the visa requirement between the two countries in May 2019.

Mounesan further said that Oman and China are among the countries that the visa requirement had been lifted; so, the number of tourists to and from those countries increased noticeably, but after the corona pandemic the trend halted.

Elsewhere, Munesan said in a meeting with a number of Iranian and Russian tourism activists on Monday that the tourism capacities in Iran are truly unique in the world.

Mounesan addressed the two countries’ tourism activists that besides the unique tourism and sightseeing capacities in highly civilized and beautiful Iran, exemplary security of the country, and hospitality of the Iranians as a part of their characteristic provide an attractive combination for the tourists from around the globe.

In addition to the unique historical monuments, diversified cultural sites, and pretty and original handicrafts, there are beautiful landscapes in northern parts of Iran, including dense forests, high mountains, roaring rivers and the beautiful deserts in the central parts of the country that can be attractive for any tourist, the Iranian minister said.

The minister of cultural heritage, tourism and handicrafts added that there are 700 state-run and private museums and their cultural and historical richness is unmatched in the world, adding that there are over 350 noble aboriginal handicrafts in handicrafts field.

He also referred to the different fields of tourism provided by the government, such as ecotourism, health tourism, agricultural tourism and mining tourism.

During the recent years, 400 hotels and 2,000 residential units have been constructed in Iranian villages, so along with other tourism fields, the ground is also paved for tourism in Iranian villages.

In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of Iranian tourists travelling to Russia, particularly to Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Oct 16, 2020 that visa waiver for Iranian tourist groups will take effect in the near future, noting that Iran and Russia signed an agreement on visa waiver for tourist groups on March 27, 2017.

She also said that as per the agreement, tourist groups are allowed to visit Russia for 15 days.

In 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for tourist groups.

Last February, Iran’s tourism ministry announced at the 27th Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), which was held from March 17 to 19, that the ministry would follow up the bilateral agreement.

Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ibrahim Pourfaraj said in 2020 that a majority of potential Russian travelers are unaware of vast tourist attractions existing 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 the Russian tourists need to make up their minds to come to Iran for tourism, he said.

Iran expects to benefit from its numerous tourist attractions such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, ancient schools, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 24 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Based on the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, Iran plans to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency - IRNA


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