People, Travel

Number of Iranian Tourists to Russia Doubles

Number of Iranian Tourists to Russia DoublesNumber of Iranian Tourists to Russia Doubles

An agreement between Tehran and Moscow to simplify reciprocal travel for certain categories of Russian and Iranian citizens, effective as of February 6, has enabled the two counties to double the number of issued visas, according to Yevgeny Ivanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Consular Department.

"Around 80,000 visas were issued for Iranians in the first 10 months of 2016 compared to 40,000 issued throughout 2015," the Russian diplomat said in an interview with Tasnim News Agency.

"Russia and Iran have a lot of potential for tourism, which we can help develop," he added.

Ivanov said his country's strategic goal is to establish a visa-free system, which is currently applied only to diplomatic passport holders.

"We are planning to extend its coverage to aircraft crews and tourist groups numbering from five to 50 people in future. We are also taking measures to simplify the visa system for other categories of citizens, including entrepreneurs. The possibility of issuing multiple-entry visas to heavy truck drivers is also being discussed," Ivanov stressed.

Official talks on visa-free travel for organized tours for two-weeks began last week.

Efforts to ease travel between the two countries follow a three-phase plan devised a year ago. The first phase, which calls for mutual relaxation of visa procedures for people active in trade, science and tourism sectors, went into effect in February. Waiving visa requirements for tours organized by travel agencies is the second phase of the scheme.

The implementation of total visa-free travel is the third and final phase of the plan, for which formal talks will be held next year.

Ivanov also said that Iranian football fans with tickets for the 2018 World Cup would be allowed to stay in Russia without visas for the two months that the tournament takes place.

Iran is said to be a top 20 tourism source market for Moscow.


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