People, Travel

Significant Rise in European Tourists

Significant Rise in European TouristsSignificant Rise in European Tourists

The number of European tourists visiting Iran increased threefold last year (March 2014-15) year-on-year, according to a top tourism official.

The figures were released by Saeed Shirkavand, deputy for investment and planning at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, during a meeting in Sanandaj, Kurdestan Province, on Wednesday, Mehr News Agency reported.

Shirkavand, however, did not disclose any specific figures.

The official pointed to easing visas and the government’s foreign policy as important factors helping the country’s tourism sector.

Shirkavand said tourism is a growing industry worldwide and urged relevant organizations to cooperate and help develop it.

“President Hassan Rouhani has made tourism and development of its infrastructure a priority,” he said.

Last month, Iran officially extended the duration of its visa-on-arrival to 30 days, up from 15, and waived visa requirements for citizens of seven countries:  Azerbaijan, Syria, Turkey, Georgia, Bolivia, Egypt and Lebanon.

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.3% in 2014 to 1.133 billion, and the industry generated $1.5 trillion. Experts believe international tourist arrivals in 2015 will grow between 3% and 4% in 2015.

In a recent report, the World Travel and Tourism Council predicted Iranian tourism to grow by 6.6% in 2015.

According to Masoud Soltanifar, head of ICHHTO, Iran hosted 5.1 million foreign tourists in 2014; a quarter of Iran’s self-imposed goal of 20 million tourists by 2025. Attracting 20 million tourists is expected to generate $30 billion in revenues.

The country is seen as one of the world’s top potential tourist destinations, as it holds countless ancient sites.

With 19 world heritage sites, Iran ranks first and fourth in Middle East and Asia respectively in terms of hosting UNESCO-listed sites. The plethora of historical and cultural sites complemented by the country’s unspoiled landscapes and Iranians’ reputation for hospitality can help Iran become a top tourist destination.