TEHRAN – The number of Iraqi nationals visiting Iran is gaining momentum this year as the Islamic Republic endeavors to boost its tourism revenues in the face of U.S.-led sanctions.
Until May, 2,500 entry visas were issued daily by the Consulate General of Iran in Najaf, which began issuing 5,000 a day in July, Iran’s economic charge d’affaires in Najaf, Aref Abbasi said, Al Monitor reported on Wednesday.
The official said that he believes this increase in the number of visas issued is due to “Iraqis preferring to arrive in Iran for tourism, shopping and treatment as a result of the prevailing security there.”
Mousa Tabatabai, assistant to Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad, told Al-Monitor, “The number of Iraqis arriving in Iran for religious tourism and treatment is growing bigger on a yearly basis. This is added to those who travel to Iran to see their relatives. The visas are issued depending on the demand.”
“There are 2-3 million Iraqis arriving in Iran every year. Such a figure will more likely increase as the visas have become free of charge between the two countries,” Tabatabai explained.
During Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq in March, the neighbors agreed to waive visa fees.
Some six thousand Iraqi nationals apply for the Iranian visa per day, Iran’s consulate in Basra announced in May
Some two million Iraqi nationals visited Iran during the first seven months of the past Iranian calendar year (ended on March 20), constituting Iran’s largest source of inbound passengers.
In return, hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims head for the holy Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala each year.
Source; tehrantimes News Agency