Iran Lifts Visa Requirements for 33 Countries: A Boost for Global Tourism

Iran is making significant changes to its visa requirements, lifting them for 33 countries, including nations it has had tense relations with, such as Saudi Arabia. Reported by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), this decision marks a shift in Iran’s approach toward global engagement.

The Ministry of Tourism, highlighted in the semi-official ISNA report, views this open-door policy as a means to demonstrate Iran’s willingness to foster connections with diverse nations worldwide.

With this change, the count of countries whose citizens can visit Iran without a visa will rise to 45. This shift holds broader implications, particularly in the context of the recent thawing of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which were strained over the past years due to various geopolitical tensions. The move signifies a step towards reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both having aligned themselves with warring parties in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen over the past decade. Recent attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, blamed on Iran and its proxies by Western officials, had threatened to escalate conflicts in the Middle East. However, a Chinese-mediated agreement in March facilitated the restoration of full diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The waiver of visa requirements includes nationals from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, in addition to Bahrain, which is yet to re-establish full ties with Tehran. Iran is also considering adding more countries to the list, using population and income per capita as criteria, according to VisaGuide.World reports.

The newly considered countries for visa-free travel to Iran encompass Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Croatia, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyz, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Tanzania, Tunisia, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Additionally, Iran is contemplating easing visa requirements for countries such as Tunisia, Czech Republic, Russia, Romania, Japan, Ivory Coast, Singapore, Senegal, Sudan, Seychelles, Chile, Serbia, Ghana, Finland, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Cameroon, Croatia, South Korea, Colombia, Comoros, Kuwait, Guinea, Poland, Luxembourg, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Hungary, Macedonia, Mexico, Mauritius, Mali, Madagascar, Niger, Vietnam, Yemen, Greece, and India.

ISNA’s comprehensive list also includes Lebanon, Tunisia, India, and several Central Asian, African, and “Muslim” nations. However, it includes only one Western-allied European nation, Croatia, a small member of the European Union and NATO. “Russians will only profit from this visa exemption if they are visiting the country in groups,” ISNA added.

Omani nationals were already able to travel to Iran visa-free before this announcement.

Iran is also set to resume regular pilgrim travel to Saudi Arabia from Dec. 19, marking the first time in eight years.

This progressive step by the Iranian government aims to promote tourism and streamline travel access to the country. Iran’s Ministry of Tourism envisions a surge in tourist arrivals, targeting six million visitors by 2024. Despite a positive increase to 3.3 million tourists in the first half of 2023, showing a 38% rise from the previous year, Iran’s tourism sector is still at a 50% deficit compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Iran’s tourism portfolio boasts 27 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions. These historical and architectural landmarks present compelling attractions for global tourists.

Sources:

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/491329/Tehran-mulls-visa-free-regimes-for-68-countries-including-Japan

https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-lifts-visa-rules-33-countries-including-gulf-states-isna-2023-12-14/

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2425886/middle-east

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/now-iran-waives-off-visa-requirements-for-indian-travellers-heres-why-101702619075372.html

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