ASTRAKHAN, August 1. /TASS/. Visa-free travel for tour groups, established by Iran and Russia, will lead to the growth of tourist inflow, Iranian Consul General Ali Mohammadi told TASS. According to him, in 2017, more than 150,000 Iranians may visit Russia.
Moscow and Tehran signed a visa-free travel agreement concerning tour groups on March 28, 2017, during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Russia. On June 25, the Iranian government adopted a relevant directive.
"Last year, more than 120,000 Iranian tourists visited Russia, so I believe that this year, the number will exceed 150,000," Mohammadi said. "We hope that the Russian tourist inflow to our country will also grow," he pointed out. "This will happen when people know more about Iran’s culture, its civilization, opportunities and safe environment. However, at present, the number of Russians visiting Iran is less when compared to the number of Iranian tourists," the Iranian diplomat added.
According to him, Iran is on the top-10 list as far as the number of tourists visiting Russia goes. Iranians particularly like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
"In summer, it is too hot in Iran, while there [in Moscow and St. Petersburg] the weather is nice. Besides, Iranians take much interest in unique historic landmarks, including the Red Square in Moscow and the rivers of St. Petersburg," Mohammadi went on to say. "People in Iran always say they wish to see the white nights in St. Petersburg, they always ask questions about it," the Iranian consul general noted.
He was confident that in the near future, other Russian regions would also attract Iranian tourists’ attention.
Cruises in the Caspian Sea could give impetus to the development of tourism industry, the Iranian consul general said adding that this sphere looked promising not only for Iran and Russia but also for all other Caspian counties. However, such cruises will require special cruise ships that would be able of withstanding big waves.
"Experts say that waves in the Caspian Sea could rival ocean waves as far as their height goes," Mohammadi noted. "Today, the Caspian countries do not possess proper cruise liners. But, according to the governor of the [Russian] Astrakhan region, there are plans to start building such ships in Astrakhan. I hope that these plans will become a reality," the Iranian diplomat added.
He pointed out that in the Iranian harbor town of Bandar-e Anzali, a modern terminal had been built for passenger cruise ships.
A project PV300VD cruise ship, planned to be used for travels in the Caspian Sea, was laid down at the Astrakhan-based Lotus shipyard in 2016 in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The four-deck vessel capable of carrying 300 passengers will equal a five-star hotel. There will be restaurants, gyms, spa salons and saunas on board. The project, initiated by the Moscow River Shipping company, is estimated at a total of 2.5 bln rubles ($41.5 mln). The cruise liner is expected to be launched in April 2018.