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Oleg Safonov, head of Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism
Economy, Domestic Economy

Russia Fast-Tracking Visa Waiver for Iranian Tours

Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism is speeding up the process of abolishing visa requirements for tours from Iran and India.

Speaking to the state-owned Russia-24 news channel, Oleg Safonov, the head of the agency, said his office and the Russian Foreign Ministry have made the issuance of “visa waivers for Iranian and India tours a priority”.

Russia hopes to replicate the success it has had by implementing a similar arrangement with China.

According to Nikolay Korolev, deputy head of the agency, the number of Chinese tourists in Russia over the past three months has shot up by 48%, while about 40% more Russians have visited China over the same period.

In February, Tehran and Moscow relaxed visa procedures in what the Russian media described as “the first step toward a visa-free regime”.

Iranian officials have expressed their willingness to abolish the visa regime with Russia, only if the move is reciprocated.

Earlier this year, Morteza Rahmani Movahed, the tourism deputy at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told Moscow-based news agency RIA Novosti that the two countries could waive visa requirements altogether  “within a week” if Russia agreed on a mutual political decision.

According to Rosstat (Russia’s state statistics service), nearly 35,000 Iranians visited Russia in 2015, a rise of more than 110% compared to a year ago.

Russia expects about 70,000 Iranians to visit this year. Iran is said to be a top 20 tourism source market for Moscow.

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