People, Travel

Visa Waiver Talks With Russia

Visa Waiver Talks With Russia
Visa Waiver Talks With Russia

Russia and Iran discussed the possibility of abolishing visa requirements for the citizens of both states on Friday, with the former evidently more eager to benefit from the visa exemption.

“I believe Iran shouldn’t wait for Russia to waive visa requirements for Iranians; Tehran can take the first step,” Maya Lomidze, the executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, told Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, according to IRNA.

This is while the Foreign Ministry in Tehran has said it will scrap visa requirements only for countries willing to reciprocate, so it is unlikely that Tehran would waive visa requirements for Russians without at least receiving assurances that Moscow would do likewise.

Lomidze pointed to a lack of familiarity with Iran’s culture and tourism potential as the main factor preventing more Russians from traveling to the Mideast country and said, “Iran has the potential to attract 100,000 Russian tourists every year.”

While that figure is four times greater than the current number of Russians visiting Iran, it is a far cry from the three million and four-and-half million Russians who travel to Egypt and Turkey respectively; the two countries Iran hopes to replace following Russia’s travel ban against those states.

According to Rosstat (Russia’s state statistics service), nearly 34,000 Iranian tourists visited Russia in the first nine months of 2015, a rise of more than 110% compared to the same period a year ago.

Rahmani Movahed said that waiving visa requirements for groups of five and more seems feasible and will be considered by Tehran.