Iran setting rules to resume foreign tourist arrivals amid pandemic

The ministries of tourism and health in close collaboration with several other government bodies are defining a series of rules for admitting foreign travelers to the country amid a standstill in the global tourism industry caused mainly by the coronavirus.

To support the recovery of the tourism sector, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts on Wednesday hosted a conference to scrutinize a comprehensive health protocol enabling strong policies to ensure the highest possible safety of travelers and host communities in the era of COVID-19 global pandemic.

Chaired by Vali Teymouri, the deputy tourism minister, the conference brought together deputy ministers from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the Ministry of Transport and Urban Development along with representatives from the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, CHTN reported.

Addressing the conference, Teymouri elaborated on a growing need for taking action to define all-inclusive health protocols, saying “Given the fact that some countries, especially neighboring countries, are gradually re-opening borders, the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to take action to define comprehensive health protocols, which should be revealed to world communities through international institutions.”

“Accordingly, by the means of establishing the necessary mechanisms, determining all capacities and limitations by related agencies, we will form a framework of the health protocol that ensures healthy visit of foreign travelers during the era of the coronavirus.”

“For the time being, the global focus is on coexistence with the novel coronavirus, support for the tourism industry, and finally the reopening of borders through specific regulations,” he noted.

Teymouri called on various organizations and tourism agencies for cross-sectoral collaboration to build trust and to reflect Iran’s efforts to the world to demonstrate how and under what criteria “we are accepting tourists…. how we treat them and ultimately bid farewell them upon their return.”

Specific mandates for testing, tracing, receiving of a traveler test/vaccine certificate, identifying infected travelers and removing them from the travel ecosystem, wearing a mask when interacting with people in all modes of transports, maintaining physical distancing to the best of one’s ability, were amongst topics discussed in the meeting.

Back in May, the tourism ministry declared new guidelines and instructions in a framework named “Smart travel protocol” to ramp up the safety of domestic travels being implemented in hotels, guest houses, eco-lodge unites, tourist destinations, transport facilities, recreational centers, and restaurants.

“The smart travel protocol states what considerations a hotel, agency, or tour guide should follow. It’s as if accommodation units need to focus more on renting one-bedroom than two-bedroom. Or if the hotel has been closed until now, with what considerations will it start working and under what conditions will it accept passengers. These cases are detailed in the present protocol we should revise its articles using the opinion of the relevant organizations,” Teymouri explained.

“I believe that tourism industry of the country will get back on the right track far sooner than generally expected thanks to the measures taken to deal with the spread of coronavirus in tourist destinations, hotels, stopovers, and all the centers which are affiliated with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts,” Teymouri said in an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times in May.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization has recently praised efforts made by Iran’s tourism ministry to manage the travel industry during the coronavirus pandemic. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a letter to tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan that the country’s measures have truly earned plaudits to mitigate the impact on tourism.

“A series of measures that the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts of Iran has taken, under the guidelines and recommendations of UNWTO, has truly earned plaudits as an effective practice to mitigate the impact on tourism.”

Experts expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

Iran expects to reap a bonanza from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 24 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, it aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025. The latest available data show eight million tourists visited the Islamic Republic during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2019).

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