According to a latest study by World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Iran's travel and tourism sector grew by 1.9 percent in 2018 to contribute $8.83 billion or 6.5 percent of overall GDP and 1,334 jobs (5.4 percent of total employment) to the country’s economy.
The report also stated that foreign visitors coming to Iran splurged $1.28 billion in 2018 and projected foreign arrivals to be 6.5 million in 2019, aa.com.tr wrote.
Another report by newly-approved Tourism Ministry also showed that the number of foreign arrivals in Iran surged by 40.66 percent during spring this year compared to the same period last year.
A total of 2,030,523 foreign nationals visited Iran this spring (three months starting March 21), while the figure stood at 1,443,551 in the same period last year, it added.
“The development of tourism infrastructure, the considerable volume of investments in the tourism sector, the issuance of electronic visa and visa waiver for select countries are the main reasons behind it,” said Ali-Asghar Mounesan, Iranian president’s pick for the newly-approved Tourism Ministry.
About 7.8 million tourists traveled to Iran in the last Iranian calendar year [ending March 20, 2019], marking a 52.5 percent growth compared to the previous year, he informed.
With the country’s economy sliding towards recession due to unprecedented US economic sanctions and shrinking oil exports, Iranian authorities are now increasingly focusing on the tourism industry.
Iranian authorities have redoubled efforts to woo more foreign travelers to Iran by announcing last August that it would no longer stamp passports of foreign visitors to help them bypass a US travel ban.
Most of the tourists come from Iraq, China, Azerbaijan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, and some European countries. Iraqi travelers, according to government data, constitutes Iran’s main source of tourism revenue.
Now Iranian tourism officials have set their sights on China, a lucrative market for tourism in the region and the country with the world’s most outbound tourists.
The Iranian government has decided to waive the visa requirement for Chinese passport holders, hoping to draw around two million Chinese tourists per year, a significant leap from 52,000 that visited the country last year.
Pertinently, China is one of the countries that have openly defied the US sanctions against Iran and continue to do oil trade with Tehran.
Turkish entrepreneurs, according to reports, have also shown interest in investing in Iran’s booming tourism industry at a time when many regional countries are abandoning Iran under the US pressure.
Turkish entrepreneur and hotelier Tuncay Kilit, who owns a chain of Crystal Hotels across Turkey, is all set to make his foray into the Iranian hospitality sector with a 1,000-room hotel spread over 10 hectares in Kish, a resort island off the southern coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Kilit Hospitality Group and Kish Free Zone finalized the deal last month for the mega project. During the signing ceremony, Kish Free Zone General Manager Gholamhossein Mozaffari said a large number of investors from Qatar, Oman and Iraq have also shown interest in investing in the island.
According to IRNA, the Qatari Foreign Ministry announced Monday that Iran issues tourist visa for Qatari nationals at airport upon arrival.
Qatari nationals can obtain a single or multiple-entry visa from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Doha, to avoid delay caused by crowd of tourists at the airport.