Iran expecting a ‘tsunami’ of tourists


TEHRAN: Iran’s vice president said on Monday the country is preparing for a ‘tsunami’ of foreign tourists, in the wake of the implementation of the historic nuclear deal and a relaxation in the country’s relations with world powers.

“President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate policies and the easing of visa rules are opening the door for the return of foreign tourists to Iran,” Masoud Soltanifar said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Soltanifar’s statement comes following President Barack Obama’s order to the US government on Sunday to take steps towards lifting sanctions on Iran.

 “Tourism is certainly the driving engine to get Iran’s economy out of recession. Iran’s tourism sector is a flourishing market for investors. We are anticipating a tsunami of tourists after sanctions are lifted,” he added.

The historically and culturally rich country aims to host 20 million tourists a year by 2025, with expectations of growing the tourist industry to $30 billion.

To make this possible, Iran will unveil an investment package of 1,300 projects in the coming days to attract foreign investment and boost the tourist industry.

According to Masoud, “In the post-sanctions era, tourism is an industry that will get a boost more than any other sector.”

The nuclear deal promises to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran’s constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, ratified into law this week a parliamentary bill implementing the landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

The UN Security Council previously approved the deal on July 20 and US Congress hampered efforts by Republicans to derail the accord in September.

As a result of the deal, France and the United Kingdom relaxed a travel advice for their citizens and the UK reopened its embassy in Tehran in August after a four-year closure.

Nuclear deal wins final Iran approval

In addition to that, investors and tourists from the US are being welcomed to the country. “American tourists and investors are welcome. There is no obstacle or restrictions for them to visit Iran or invest in the country,” the moderate Iranian vice president said.

However, currently, Iran lacks sufficient accommodation and transportation for the number of tourists it expects. It has 1,100 hotels and guest houses, 130 of them 4 and 5 star hotels.

Being a member of Rouhani’s Cabinet, Masoud said officials are trying to remove obstacles for tourists and issue visas on arrival at the airport in Tehran for nationals of 190 countries.

They will be valid for 30 days, with the possibility of extending for another 15 days.

Tourism authorities are also planning to issue electronic visas beginning next year, he said.

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