Iran: Tourist arrivals increase 24% to over 5.8 million

Financial Tribune –  Iraq, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan are the main source of tourists to Iran

A total of 5,890,952 tourists visited Iran during the first seven months of the current fiscal year (March 21-Oct. 22) to register a 24% growth compared with the same period of last year, according to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism.

This is while earlier statistics suggested the country saw a 26.34% rise year-on-year in tourist arrivals during the first half of the current fiscal year (March 21-Sept. 22).

What’s more, 890,952 tourists visited Iran during the seventh fiscal month (Sept. 23-Oct. 22), indicating a 12.5% rise compared with last year’s similar month.

Latest statistics also show some six million Iranians traveled across the country during the seven months to Oct. 22, up by 23% YOY, the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reported.

Iraq, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan are the main source of tourists to Iran.

Although rising tensions between Washington and Tehran are hitting visitor numbers, especially from Europe, the increasing number of foreigners visiting for religious and medical purposes is making up for the loss.

According to Ebrahim Pourfaraj from Iranian Tourism Association, the weak rial helps bring in tourists to Iran.

“They come on pilgrimages or for medical treatment. To some extent, that makes up for the losses,” he told DW in an interview.

Iran has been ranked first worldwide in terms of price competitiveness in the World Economic Forum’s “The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019” with a score of 6.7.

Scores range from 1 to 7 where 1 means worst and 7 means best.

Although rising tensions between Washington and Tehran are hitting visitor numbers, especially from Europe, the increasing number of foreigners visiting for religious and medical purposes is making up for the loss

The report attributes Iran’s top ranking to low ticket taxes and airport charges (7th), fuel prices (5th) and high purchasing power (5th).

“A total of 4,258,944 Iranians traveled overseas during the same period, indicating a year-on-year increase of 15.95%,” Teymouri told ISNA.

The devaluation of Iran’s national currency rial against foreign currencies last year has had a dual effect: On the one hand, it has led to a decline in the purchasing power of Iranians overseas, but on the other hand has given a boost to the inbound tourism sector as travelling to Iran has become cheaper for foreign holiday-goers.

The rial lost about two-thirds of its value against the dollar last year. In recent weeks, however, the national currency has gained parts of the losses by appreciating against foreign currencies.

Iran hosted more than 7.29 million foreign tourists in 2018, about 50% more compared to the year before, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organizations.

The country had a 2.1% share from global tourist arrivals and more than 22% in South Asia last year.

A total of 4.86 million foreign tourists visited Iran in 2017, 1.5% less compared to the year before.

An earlier report by World Travel and Tourism Council indicates that Iraq was the main source of tourism for Iran last year, as Iraqis constituted 24% of all inbound visitors. Other major sources were Azerbaijan (17%), Turkey (8%), Pakistan (4%) and Bahrain (2%). The remaining 46% came from the rest of the world.

As for tourist spending, the 2018 figure was not available in the UNWTO report. But it says foreign tourists spent more than $4.4 billion in Iran in 2017.

Iranian authorities have redoubled efforts to boost the tourism sector to increase foreign currency revenues and create jobs.

About 7.8 million tourists traveled to Iran during the last Iranian year (ended March 20, 2019) to register a 52.5% growth compared with the preceding year.

“The development of tourism infrastructure, the considerable volume of investments in the tourism sector, the issuance of electronic visa and visa waiver for target countries could be named as the main causes of the growth in the number of foreign travelers,” Minister of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Ali Asghar Mounesan has been quoted as saying.