TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A rising number of American tourists have booked to visit Iran in 2016, despite new visa restrictions the US administration plans to impose on travelers to the country, Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Masoud Soltanifar said Thursday.
“In spite of the restrictions that Americans have introduced on the visit to Iran by the nationals of 38 countries…, the number of applicants for visiting Iran in 2016, from the US itself, has more than doubled compared to 2014 and 2015,” Soltanifar told reporters in Iran’s historical city of Yazd, some 650 kilometers south of Tehran.
Reports by the country’s travel agencies reveal that “not a single Western or American tour” of Iran has been canceled after introduction of changes in the US visa program, he underlined.
According to a bill, which was passed in the US House of Representatives by 407 to 19 on December 8, visitors from the 38 “visa waiver” countries will need to obtain a visa to travel to the US if they have been to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan in the past five years.
On December 18, US lawmakers sent Barack Obama a huge tax and spending package, which also included reforms of the US visa waiver program, and the president quickly signed it into law.
Elsewhere in his comments, Mr. Soltanifar noted that Iran has witnessed a growing number of foreign tourists over the past two years.
While the average growth in the number of tourists in the world stands at 4.6 percent, Iran has recorded a 12 percent rise in the number of visitors over the past two years, he noted.
More foreign tourists are starting to arrive in Iran after Tehran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) finalized the text of a deal on Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program in July 2015.
With a large number of attractive natural and historical sites, Iran is one of the most touristic countries in the world.
It became a tourist hotspot in 2014, with tour operators in many European countries reporting significant increases in tourists booking trips to the Persian Gulf country.