Spanish tourists arrival in Iran up by 50% in 2019
Iranian Ambassador to Spain Hassan Qashqavi said his country is one of the top ten best tourist destinations in the world in terms of attractions diversity, adding that the number of Spanish tourists visiting Iran rose by 50% in the last year.
Referring to the 50% growth in the number of Spanish tourists to Iran over the past year, Qashqavi said, during a special session at the 40th International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR) on Friday, that Iran is among the top ten countries in terms of tourism attractions diversity.
The envoy added that Iran’s participation at the FITUR was meant to introduce the country’s tourism attractions.
Qashqavi, who was present at the meeting, referred to the remarkable capacities of the two countries for cooperation in the fields of tourism and handicrafts, and voiced Tehran’s readiness for promoting collaboration in those spheres.
The envoy said the promotion of the tourism industry is high on the Iranian government’s agenda, noting that given the capabilities of Spain in this sector, the issue can serve as one of the areas of cooperation between Tehran and Madrid.
The meeting was also attended by two Spanish tourists who explained their experience of visiting Iran. The two hailed Iranians’ hospitality and the country’s high security despite the anti-Iran propaganda.
Last month, Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that the number of foreign tourists visiting his country has skyrocketed by 30% since March 2018, adding that the United States’ anti-Tehran policies have failed to hamper the local industry of tourism.
Jahangiri said that tourism has boomed since March 2018 when Washington was preparing to impose its unilateral sanctions on Iran.
He said tourist arrivals into the country had surged by 30 percent each year for the past two years to reach a total of seven million visitors annually.
“The Americans had thought that through imposing oppressive sanctions against the Iranian nation, they would impede the travel of foreign visitors into our country,” said Jahangiri while visiting tourism facilities in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr.
The senior government official admitted, however, that total arrivals could have hit a record of 10 million people at the end of this year in March 2020 if the sanctions had not been enforced.
Tourism has become a key sector for the Iranian economy since the sanctions were enacted in May last year.
Easing visa requirements and other restrictions, the government has sought more arrivals of tourists, especially from East Asian countries, as it looks for alternative sources of hard currency that could compensate for losses suffered in direct sale of oil.
Iran’s main department on tourism was upgraded to the rank of a ministry earlier this year to facilitate the policy-making in the sector and allow more investment attraction.
Authorities expect a total of seven million tourists to arrive in Iran until March, an increase of 42 percent year-on-year compared to 2016 when the country had just been relieved of international sanctions on its nuclear program.
Earlier in December, Deputy Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHHTO) Mohammad Khayyatian announced that millions of tourists have visited the country in the past few months despite the US sanctions.
“The tourism industry has not been hurt under sanctions and some 6mln tourists have entered the country in the first 7 months of the current (Iranian) year (started on March 21),” Khayyatian said.
He added that the US sanctions have failed to stop growth and flourishing of Iran’s tourism industry.
CHHTO Chief Ali Asqar Mounesan had said in September that his country’s tourism industry was enjoying a vigorous momentum, adding that Washington was unsuccessful in its efforts to dampen the growth in the field.
Iran’s tourism industry is on the right track and progressing well, Mounesan who is a vice-president said on the sidelines of his attendance in Parliament session for discussing the recent transformation of CHHTO to a ministry.
“In 2017, the number of foreign tourists visiting Iran stood at 4.7 million. In 2018, the number reached 7.7 million, and we witnessed a boom in the first four months of the current year compared to the same period in previous years,” he added.
“Around March 2018, we received a governmental notice warning about the behavior of the US administration and its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, so we started to plan accordingly so that the measures would not affect the number of tourists visiting our country,” Mounesan added.
“For instance, we implemented a one-way visa waiver with Oman. Recently, we did the same with China. From Oman alone, we received 4,700 tourists. The number has reached 12,400 tourists since the past three months,” he added.
“We have made plans and set our sight on regional markets. As of now, tourists visit Iran for receiving treatment, besides doing pilgrimages. This has brought in a lot of revenues for the country, even more so than revenues brought in by European tourists,” he said.