A group of Japanese tourists have traveled to Iran after a two-year standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic which ground the entire tourism sector to a halt worldwide.
Individual Japanese tourists have visited Iran on business trips or for seeing family or friends since Iranian calendar month of Aban (falling on October 23 to November 21), said Seyyed Abbas-Ali Emamieh, the secretary of the consortium of incoming tours from Korea and Japan at the Association of Air Transport and Tourist Agencies of Iran (AATTAI).
And group tours from Japan are also resuming after a two-year pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, added Emamieh.
Japanese tourists’ journey starts from northeastern province of Golestan which includes visits to Miankaleh peninsula and Ashooradeh Island, Emamieh said, noting, “We decided to start off with nature tours” due to the unstable conditions brought about by the pandemic and restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus.
Emamieh said that the Japanese tourists are scheduled to visit provinces of Semnan, Mazandaran and Gilan, but did not provide any information on how long the journey lasts or when it has started.
He added that so far Japanese tourism sector has embarked on nature-based outbound tours, saying that such tours will set the scene for attracting other incoming tourists to Iran in the near future.
Mentioning the Gold week (a collection of four national holidays within seven days) in Japan which starts from April 29 to May 5, he said that travel activity is normally anticipated to peak during this holiday in Japan, however, as re-entry to Japan is still very cumbersome due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the number of oversea trips remains low.
Nonetheless, as travel restrictions are easing in Europe, Japan is expected to follow suit and is hoped to reopen to leisure travelers in summer, he said, adding, it is predicted that Japan will first lift COVID-19-related travel bans for neighboring countries with lower confirmed coronavirus cases and eliminate the bans for other countries as well after assessing the conditions.
“In anticipation of resuming accepting foreign tourists, Iranian travel agencies have planned tours to Japan in September,” the tourism official said.
Commenting on Iran’s pandemic-related travel restrictions, Emamieh said that to avoid confusing travelers who plan to visit Iran, it is best not to keep changing COVID entry rules and remove restrictions gradually.
“Near the end of the last [Iranian calendar] year (February 20-March 20) it was announced that travelers only need vaccine certificates to travel to Iran, however, the restrictions intensified again entailing a negative PCR test as well,” he said, noting, such policies will affect the travel plans.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), impact assessment of the covid-19 outbreak on international tourism experienced a 4% increase in 2021, 15 million more international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) compared to 2020 (415 million versus 400 million).
However, international arrivals were still 72% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to preliminary estimates. This follows on from 2020, the worst year on record for tourism, when international arrivals decreased by 73%.
The report adds that the pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveler confidence.