EghtesadOnline: About 5.2 million tourists traveled to Iran during the first eight months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Nov. 21) to register a 57% growth compared with last year's corresponding period, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization said.
"The development of tourism infrastructure, considerable investments in the tourism sector, issuance of electronic visa and visa waiver for target countries could be considered the main reasons for the growth in the number of foreign travelers," Ali Asghar Mounesan was also quoted as saying by the organization's website earlier this week.
The official noted that the number is already higher than last year's 5.1 million.
A majority of foreign travelers visiting Iran during the eight-month period were from neighboring countries, namely Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia, Financial Tribune reported.
Germans topped the list of European tourists to Iran followed by the French and Italians.
According to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi, 1,880 US citizens traveled to Iran during the first three quarters of the current Iranian year (March-December 2018).
Speaking at a press conference held on the sidelines of a tourism and hospitality exhibition on the southern Qeshm Island, Mounesan noted that Iran's tourism sector has the potential to replace the oil sector as the main source of the country's income.
Drop in Outbound Tourism
The drop in the value of national currency since the beginning of the current fiscal year in March 2018 has helped attract more foreigners to the country. However, it has made many Iranian families rethink their plans for foreign trips.
No official data have been released by local tourism authorities about the number of foreign trips made by Iranians in the past few months. However, travel agencies have been repeatedly reporting a decline.
The latest data released by Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism indicate the number of Iranian tourists visiting Turkey, a popular tourist destination, has considerably decreased in 2018.
More than 1,894,100 Iranian travelers visited Turkey during the first 11 months of 2018, which marks an 18.17% decline compared with the corresponding period of last year when the number of Iranian visitors was 2,314,656.
Among all tourists who visited Turkey from January to November, only 5.05% were Iranian.
The drop was more significant in November, as the number of Iranian travelers to Turkey decreased by 46.39% from 196,000 last November to 105,000 this year.
In November 2018, only 5.35% of all travelers who visited Turkey were Iranian.
Georgia, another popular destination for Iranians, has also become less appealing to travelers. The country has stopped and deported Iranian travelers at its airports or ports of entry in the last few weeks, although they had the necessary documents, according to media reports confirmed by the Iranian Embassy in Tbilisi.
Lawmakers are reportedly seeking a review of the visa-free travel agreement signed between Iran and Georgia, if the issue of deportation or ban on Iranian citizens from entering the Caucasian country is not resolved.
Over 262,000 Iranians traveled to Georgia during the first 10 months of 2018.