Despite the negative news, can “Iran Tourism” manage to attract the vast Indian travellers to the beautiful and culturally mesmerizing nation? UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020 and Iran is keen to have a major pie of the share, just like its foe – Israel, and pal – Turkey.
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According to Tehran Times, with Washington re-imposing sanctions on Iran, this is an ideal opportunity for Iran to find alternative ways to strengthen its economic ties with friendly countries, including India and tourism can be one of the biggest attractions.
Although India is yet to take its final decision on oil imports from Iran, reports suggest that the Indian government would most likely continue oil trade with Tehran, defying U.S. sanctions. Two major Indian oil companies recently put orders for Iranian crude oil for November, when the petroleum-related sanctions take effect, which is an indication that India won’t buckle under the U.S. pressure.
Looking beyond the energy cooperation between India and Iran, tourism is one area that can bring two allies closer and bolster the relations further. Iran, known for its rich culture, is home to many historical places, but its tourism sector remains largely underdeveloped due to multiple issues ranging from infrastructural to promotional.
According to a report, approximately 72,809 Indians travelled to Iran during the last fiscal year accounting for 2.3% of total foreign visitors. Iranian tourism authority’s data indicates a 6.6% drop in the number of Indian visitors.
Even though Iran boasts of a diverse and gorgeous landscape, but tourism is largely confined to holy pilgrimage which is highly revered by Shias across the world.
A large percentage of Indians who are not Muslims have to be lured in a different way. Definitely, Iran with its Islamic and cultural heritage can be transformed into a lucrative tourist hub, the way Turkey has remodelled itself, where both sets of tourism, religious and recreational, co-exist. Turkey draws around 100,000 tourists from India every year.
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When Indians are looking for more economically viable destinations, places like the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore, then Iran can also attract Indian tourists with its historical and mesmerizing attractions.
Recently, Israel started aggressive marketing campaigns in Indian and is now becoming a preferred destination for Indian tourists. Israeli Tourism Ministry figures showed an 82% increase in the number of Indians visiting the country during the first half of 2018. Around 44,000 Indians visited Israel between January and June, mainly during the vacation season for Indians. Israel has spent around $3-4 million in India for creating brand awareness through various mediums.
A few months ago, Iran started offering visa-on-arrival for Indians, however, the visa fee is seven times higher than the Israeli visa. Its two carriers Mahan Air and Iran Air connect New Delhi and Mumbai to Tehran, but Iran needs more and better connectivity with India to boost “Tourism Iran”