People, Travel

Russia Proposes Visa Waiver for Iran Tours

Russia Proposes Visa Waiver for Iran ToursRussia Proposes Visa Waiver for Iran Tours

The government in Moscow has put forward a proposal to scrap the visa regime for organized tours from Iran, India, and Vietnam in a bid to boost inbound figures and its ailing economy.

Nikolay Korolev, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation, told the state-run Russian news agency Tass that “Moscow has proposed waiving visa requirements to the authorities in the three countries.”

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

“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,” Korolev said. “Reciprocal waiving of the visa regime for group tours with Iran, India and Vietnam will also prove to be mutually beneficial.”

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 declared 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 the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization told Moscow-based news agency RIA Novosti 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 34,000 Iranians visited Russia in the first nine months of 2015, a rise of more than 110% compared to the same period a year ago. About 25,000 Russians visit Iran every year.

Industry insiders says Iran is attempting to replace Egypt and Turkey as a top destination for Russian tourists, following the Kremlin’s travel ban against those countries due to security issues and, in the case of Turkey at least, strained political ties.