TEHRAN – According to the tourism minister of the Islamic Republic, Iran grants visa-free access to approximately half of the world’s population, totaling around four billion people.

“Currently, half of the world’s population can travel to Iran without visas,” Ezzatollah Zarghami said on Monday.

“Fortunately, considering the special attention that the government pays to the tourism sector, in the latest move, the government agreed to abolish visas for citizens of 33 countries, which is a significant step for the tourism sector,” the minister explained.

He made the remarks in a meeting with the head and members of the cultural fraction of the Iranian parliament held at the National Museum of Iran.

“Of course, our initial proposal was to abolish visas for citizens of 60 countries, but the government agreed to abolish visas for citizens of 33 countries. With this abolition, the possibility of travel to Iran without obtaining visas has been provided for half of the world’s population.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the minister addressed concerns over negative portrayals of Iran in foreign media, attributing them to a phenomenon known as “Iranophobia.”

“We are facing an issue called Iranophobia, and tourism can counteract this phenomenon,” Zarghami said.

“Unfortunately, some foreign media outlets, by pursuing the Iranophobia project, seek to hinder the growth, development, and prosperity of tourism.”

The visa-waiver program was approved for India, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Belarus, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Mauritania, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, and Seychelles.

Besides, the Islamic Republic had previously had visited cancelations with some countries like Turkey, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Oman, China, Armenia, Lebanon, and Syria, in various forms – unilateral, bilateral, and group visa cancelations, including airport visas, which were implemented in some cases.  The privilege has been granted to tourist groups from Russia based on a mutual agreement inked between Tehran and Moscow.

According to available data compiled by the tourism ministry, more than six million foreign tourists arrived by air, road, and sea in the country during the past Iranian calendar year, which came to an end on March 19.

The figure marks a substantial year-on-year increase compared to a year earlier (1401) in which approximately 4.23 million tourists visited the Islamic Republic.

Earlier in January, Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary-General of UN Tourism, formerly (UNWTO), warmly welcomed Iran’s decision for border easing, expressing optimism about a vibrant future for tourism for the ancient country.

He also underscored Iran’s significant role in Asian tourism as he pointed to the country’s rich historical and cultural heritage.  Pololikashvili expressed hope that the visa waiver policy would usher in a bright and prosperous future for tourism in Iran.

The latest data provided by the tourism ministry suggests the number of foreign arrivals in the country reached 4.4 million during the first eight months of the current Iranian year (started on March 21), which shows 48.5 percent compared to that of last year.

The Islamic Republic expects to reap a bonanza from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 27 are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.


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