Iran Looks To China’s Rich, Young Adventurers As ‘Largest Target Market’ For Tourism

    As many other economically troubled countries are doing, Iran has announced it may reduce restrictions on visas for high-spending Chinese tourists.
    Liz FloraAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    While in Beijing on Monday, the UK’s chancellor announced that Britain plans to relax visa requirements for Chinese tourists, a move many UK luxury companies have been lobbying for. Not to be outdone, another country's government has also recently publicized plans to lift visa requirements for China in order to boost Chinese tourism: Iran.

    According to a press conference held earlier in October by the head of the country’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (CHTO) Mohammad Ali Najafi, Iran is currently “studying a plan” to lift visa requirements in China and several other countries to increase tourism revenue. According to him, China is the “largest target market for the Iranian tourism industry."

    Iran undoubtedly hopes the influx of tourists will ease the pain of UN sanctions against the country as a result of its nuclear program, which have been described as “devastating” to the Iranian economy. In his statement, Najafi left no illusions as to the desired socioeconomic status of the incoming visitors, making it clear that the country needs big spenders:

    He said, “We are interested in attracting tourists who could give a boost to our economy, not those who would come to Iran seeking temporary jobs and leave after three months.”

    These wealthy Chinese visitors are likely to be young, thrill-seeking, and not necessarily Muslim. According to China Daily, Iran is a popular destination “for the more adventurous young Chinese people looking to see something other than Paris or New York.” Although most tourists to Iran currently visit for religious reasons such as for pilgrimages to Shiite holy sites, the majority of visitors for non-religious reasons are either Chinese or German. Iran and China signed an agreement in 2011 to facilitate travel between the two countries, which included the appointment of official travel agencies to handle visa applications and letters of invitation for Chinese visitors. Iranian and Chinese airlines also both have direct flights available between the two countries.

    In case you're wondering how audacious, young, non-religious Chinese tourists notorious for misbehavior abroad will fare in the theocratic country, the Chinese government apparently has them covered. A recent guide it issued to citizens on how to behave abroad had the following advice for being a tourist in Iran: “You must not comment on babies’ eyes.”

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