News ID: 240008
Published: 0355 GMT March 09, 2019

Iran takes steps to welcome travelers as US ramps up pressure

Iran takes steps to welcome travelers as US ramps up pressure

The Iranian consulate in Erbil will stop issuing printed visas in line with Tehran’s policy to no longer stamp the passports of foreign tourists arriving in the country.

The move is expected to boost tourism for Iran as its economy struggles under ever expanding US sanctions.

“Print copies of visas have been done away with, meaning that now we will no longer waste a passport page by sticking visas on them,” Iranian Consul Mortaza Ebadi told Rudaw.

“Entrance and exit stamps will no longer exist,” he added.

Last summer, Iran’s tourism department announced it will end the practice of stamping visitors’ passports in a bid to save the industry while the US ramps up efforts to isolate Iran.

The head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Ali Asghar Mounesan said in August 2018, that the government will introduce protectionist measures to support the tourism industry.

Police and the Foreign Ministry backed the move to stop putting entry and exit stamps into visitors’ passports.

The tour operators are worried about a possible downturn after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, reimposed sanctions, and began pressuring on Iran.

The number of European visitors subsequently declined slightly, said Mounesan.

With its regional and international relations under threat, Tehran is eager to find ways around the sanctions to promote trade and protect its economy.

The tourism industry contributed 7.3 percent of GDP in 2017 and was forecast to nearly double to 14 percent in 2018, according to the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council.

More than 1.6 million Iranians are employed in the sector.

Promoting tourism and removing red tape is a move that tourists and industry workers alike will appreciate.

Kurdish travelers – who frequently cross the border for healthcare as well as general tourism – have taken advantage of Iran. The number of travelers going through Bashmaq border gate increased by 26 percent last summer.

European Union passport holders can get a visa on arrival an Iran’s airport, though not at land crossings. British, American and Canadians have to apply for visas in advance with the assistance of a tour organizer.

A total of 1,879 American tourists visited Iran between March 21 and December 21, 2018, according to the Foreign Ministry.

With its rich history, stunning art and architecture, and vibrant hospitality, Iran has a lot to offer visitors. The New York Times named Iran – a “Middle East jewel” – as one of its 52 places to visit in 2019.

Travelers applying for visas through the consulate in Erbil will receive confirmation they have been granted a visa, but nothing will be inserted into their passports, Ebadi explained. They can also apply online.

Iran, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have had many high profile visits since the US imposed sanctions, cementing their friendly relationships and economic ties.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to visit Iraq on Monday with a trade delegation.

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