Call for Signing More Visa-Free Agreements

Iran’s immediate goal is to increase the number of countries with which it has a reciprocal visa-free regime to 28
Golestan Palace Complex is one of many palace-museum complexes in Tehran in need of improved infrastructure and good quality service.Golestan Palace Complex is one of many palace-museum complexes in Tehran in need of improved infrastructure and good quality service.

The speaker of the parliamentary tourism and cultural heritage group has lent his voice to widespread calls for abolishing the visa regime with more countries to develop Iran’s tourism industry.

“Countries with a successful tourism industry have managed that by making traveling easier,” Zabiollah Nikfar, speaker of the group, was quoted as saying by ICANA.

Nikfar, who is serving his first term as a legislator representing Lahijan and Siahkal in Gilan Province, commended the government’s effort to mutually strike down the visa regime with 12 countries and said: “We can expand the visa-free regime.”

Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has been a supporter of facilitating visa procedures ever since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013. The Foreign Ministry, which has the final say on all visa matters, has also expressed a willingness to issue visa exemptions, but only if it is reciprocated.

“Reciprocal visa exemptions can also help boost the international standing and credit of Iranian passport,” the lawmaker added.

According to ICHHTO chief, Masoud Soltanifar, who doubles as a vice president, Iran’s immediate goal is to sign mutual visa-free deals with 28 countries.

  Cultural Tourism Neglected

One of Tehran’s—indeed, Iran’s—main attractions is the so-called palace complexes that are expansive compounds with multiple palaces and museums.

“However, most of these sites lack even the most basic amenities, such as functioning restrooms,” Tayyebeh Siavoshi, a member of the tourism and cultural heritage group, was quoted as saying by Asr Iran.

In stark contrast with museums in Paris and Rome, Iranian museums do not entice people and fail to attract them.

“In Rome and Paris, people are willing to stand in queues just so they can get a glimpse into the rich history on display at their museums. Can we honestly say the same thing about here?” she asked.

The Tehran lawmaker added that the problem is not what is on display, but how they are presented.

“It’s the quality of services and even the interior design of the museums; they’re not at all up to international standards,” she said.

Siavoshi noted that even though tourism officials are fully aware of the problems in the sector and have taken steps, such as requesting a bigger budget, they have neglected cultural tourism.

She criticized cultural heritage officials for charging foreign visitors to museums and historical sites more than what they charge domestic visitors.

“Nowhere in the world do you see foreigners forced to pay a higher fee for entry tickets to a site than locals. It’s not a good custom and it’s immoral,” she said.