In an effort to boost tourism, Iran is contemplating the elimination of visa requirements for passport holders from 68 countries, including Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, according to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts. Although the final decision is pending, this initiative signifies a significant step towards facilitating travel and increasing inbound tourism.
The proposed list of countries includes a diverse range, from neighboring nations to emerging markets with substantial populations and per capita income. The potential visa-free access spans across countries such as Argentina, South Africa, Indonesia, Jordan, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ecuador, Algeria, UAE, Bahrain, Bolivia, and many others.
The tentative nature of the list indicates that the scheme is still under consideration, and its implementation may not be imminent. Ali-Asghar Shalbafian, the Deputy Minister for Tourism, emphasized that the countries selected were chosen based on their market potential and economic factors.
Despite fluctuations in the number of target countries mentioned in previous statements by the ministry, the overarching goal is to simplify travel processes and attract more international tourists. Iran aims to welcome an estimated six million tourists by the end of the current year, marking a steady recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Iran’s tourism experienced a setback due to the pandemic, recent data suggests a gradual improvement. Between January and July 2023, foreign tourist arrivals reached approximately 2.93 million. Although this figure is 50% lower than the same period in 2019, Iran remains committed to promoting its rich cultural and historical attractions, including 27 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Ministry’s proposal aligns with President Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to the tourism ministry, reflecting a government focus on leveraging tourism for economic growth. The initiative also includes efforts to simplify overland journeys for tourists from neighboring countries, contributing to a more seamless travel experience.
As the final list undergoes scrutiny and approval, Iran anticipates further progress in reviving its tourism sector and showcasing its diverse offerings to the global audience.