destinations which dropped the demand for visa for Chinese outbound travellers have seen dramatic increases in arrivals in the following years. Serbia jumped from 15,000 arrivals in 2015 to 100,000 in 2018, Morocco even from 10,000 in 2015 to 180,000 in 2018.
Since last month, Iran has joined the almost 100 destinations which offer either visa-free entry or at least eVisa or visa-on-arrival for Chinese citizens. The country saw a doubling of arrivals from 35,000 in 2013 to 80,000 in 2018. However, given the great variety of attractions and possible activities in the country, which is only seven hours by air away from China, higher numbers could be expected.
The waving of the necessity of a visa application has two positive effects: On the one hand Chinese travellers can spontaneously decide to travel and are spared the Mafan of filling out forms, paying visa fees or even having to travel to an interview at the consulate of the host country. On the other hand it also sends a very strong signal to Chinese potential visitors: “You are Welcome! instead of treating you like a potential criminal or at least asylum seeker, we are happy that you plan to spend your RMB in our place.”
The Iranian government has, not the least out of necessity, put a new emphasis on inbound tourism as a source of hard currency income, expanding the horizon from religious travel motives to others as well. China is one of the main target markets, given the importance, the proximity but also the intensive cultural, artistic and scientific relations between Persia and China in the last two thousand years. The tourism industry is following suit: In the last few days two China outbound workshops took place in Tehran and in Shiraz. Your humble author had the privilege of holding this workshops in cooperation with SAITO Travel and Tour Co. in Tehran and the International Department of Shiraz University. Each time close to 100 participants followed the presentations including examples of content of CTT China Tourism Training, the outbound training programme developed by COTRI and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management, and asked many questions about the possibilities and challenges of developing Iran into a “hot” destination for Chinese visitors.
Iran has a good chance to avoid the trap of becoming a high volume low price low profit destination by keeping up prices and quality and emphasising thematic tours based on the breathtaking landscapes, the more than 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites and not the least the hospitality of the Iranian people. The obligatory scarf for women and the lack of alcohol do not bother Chinese visitors very much. “Travel now, as long as not so many Chinese tourists are here yet” was the conclusion of one of the participants of a FAM trip for Chinese tour operators, which took place in connection with the workshops.
The wish for a peaceful week puts on a special emphasis coming from Iran this time, may it also be a profitable one for all our readers,
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team