Tourism activist laments new regulation’s pause for arrivals
The Head of the Association of Air Transport and Tourist Agencies of Iran believes that newly-declared travel restrictions have caused many problems for the ones who are arranged to visit Iran.
Following the new travel laws announced a few days ago and the ban on foreign tourists entering Iran, some foreign travelers stayed outside Iran’s borders and failed to enter the country, ISNA quoted Hormatollah Rafiei as saying on Saturday. Due to the outbreak of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, Iranian authorities have prohibited the direct and indirect entry of passengers from eight African countries and four European ones for 15 days, while the entry of the nationals of other countries is only allowed for those with business, student, work, and medical visas. Several tourists were kept behind Iran’s borders after this decree was issued and implemented so suddenly, Rafiei said. “None of the tourist-friendly countries have implemented such restrictions and bans,” he said, calling the new regulations and instructions ‘unprofessional’ and ‘wrong’. “While we support the ban on the entry of citizens of the few African countries that were sources of the new variant of the coronavirus, we object to the suspension of tourist visas for all foreign nationals.” The travel and tourism industry has not been a major cause of the outbreak of the coronavirus, especially when it is done legally and in a controlled manner, he noted. The decision is wrong and will cause damage to the country once again as well as create distrust towards Iran on the global tourism market, he lamented. Some experts, however, believe that preventing the spread of new variants of the virus and maintaining public health are preferable to the benefits of tourism. To control and slow down the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus, tourists from Botswana, Swatini, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Namibia as well as England, France, Norway, and Denmark are banned from entering the country, ISNA reported on Thursday. However, activists for Iranian tourism urged the three ministries of interior, tourism, and foreign affairs to facilitate travel to Iran for foreign tourists from the mentioned countries who have obtained tourist visas and are en route to Iran or about to visit it. Moreover, direct and indirect entry of the nationals of other countries is only allowed for those with business, student, work, and medical visas who present valid vaccination cards and follow protocols approved by the Ministry of Health. A health certificate with a negative coronavirus PCR test result, issued at most 72 hours before arrival, is also required for travelers. The new regulations and restrictions on travel to Iran have been put into place just two months after the visas were issued for foreign visitors after almost 19 months of suspension. Last month, Iranian officials announced that in addition to providing proof of vaccination or a negative PCR, inbound passengers must have coronavirus insurance, which differs from the routine insurance coverage purchased by all tourists before the coronavirus era. Iranian Tour Operators Director Ebrahim Pourfaraj said earlier in November that the restoration of tourism flow to the country is very important for Iranian tour operators and travel insiders. “At the moment, we are not thinking about revenues, but we are looking for the beginning of the tourist flow to the country and renew our links [with international fellows],” Pourfaraj said. His comments came after months of steep recession triggered by massive coronavirus restrictions which led many travel insiders, hoteliers, and tour operators towards bankruptcy, unemployment, debts, and the prospects of not being competitive on the international level. As mentioned by Pourfaraj, Iran has made its best to maintain contact with global tourism markets and companies that worked with Iran in the past, especially since virtual communication and meetings have thrived. “Following the resumption of the tourist visa, visitors from Russia and France have traveled to Iran and we are currently expecting a smaller number of tourists in Iran due to the current situation in the world,” he explained. Last November, the World Tourism Organization announced that international tourist arrivals to Iran plunged 72% during the first eight months of 2020 when compared to 2019, highlighting the severe impact of COVID-19 as the main factor. Iran is potentially a booming destination for travelers seeking cultural attractions, breathtaking sceneries, and numerous UNESCO-registered sites.