Spanish Tourists to Iran Double

The number of Spanish tourists in Iran reached 9,761 in the last Iranian year (March 2016-17), more than double the 4,022 reported in March 2013-14, a senior official at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said.

Speaking to ISNA, Morteza Rahmani Movahed, ICHHTO’s deputy for tourism, said this bodes well for Iran because it paves the way for cooperation with Spain, whose tourism industry “is a model to follow”.

“Strengthening cooperation with the Spaniards will help us devise and execute more effective policies,” he added, describing Spain as a tourism powerhouse.

Movahed said Matilde Pastora Asian Gonzalez, Spanish secretary of state for tourism, expressed her country’s interest in working with Iran in a meeting last week in Tehran.

He said he held talks with Gonzalez on establishing direct flights between Tehran and the Spanish cities of Barcelona and Madrid, and called for relaxed visa procedures for Iranian nationals.

Spaniards are issued visa on arrival in 10 international airports of Iran, valid for up to 90 days. Iranians, however, must apply for a visa before traveling to Spain.

Tehran and Madrid first began tourism cooperation in 2002, when the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding. However, the agreement was not renewed by the incumbent Iranian government in 2005 despite Spain’s calls for a renewal.

Nevertheless, President Hassan Rouhani has declared his desire for international cooperation, raising hopes that a new agreement will be signed.

“We suggested updating the text of the agreement and signing it,” Movahed said, noting that the Spanish side welcomed it.

Spanish firms have already started entering Iran’s budding tourism market. In 2015, Destinia, a prominent Spain-based online travel agency, entered the Iranian market, making it the first European travel agency to claim a stake in the emerging Iranian online travel sector, according to the agency’s marketing director, Beatriz Oficialdegui.

Furthermore, Spanish hotel group Melia is set to open the five-star Melia Motel Ghoo, Iran’s first foreign-branded seaside hotel, in Salman Shahr, Mazandaran Province.