Financial Tribune - Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization had announced plans to organize tours to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but the recent decisions of FIFA and the Russian government have thwarted them.
The disappointing development emerged after the second meeting on Sunday with officials from Iran's Football Federation, the Foreign Ministry and representatives of travel agencies keen on organizing tours to the international event.
According to Leila Ajdari, director of Tourism Marketing and Promotion Office, 77 experienced travel agencies were introduced to the federation, including travel plans and cost of packages, to hold tours to Russia under ICHHTO's close supervision, ISNA reported.
"Based on primary agreements, the football federation was to submit the tickets of matches or of opening and closing ceremonies to selected agencies to be sold as group tour," she said.
However, Mehdi Taj, the federation's president, declared that FIFA is not offering tickets to any federation and those interested can buy them individually through FIFA's website.
With tickets available to everyone, the so-called special tour to the World Cup will no longer be attractive to customers because there is no such thing.
"Apparently, the federation corresponded with FIFA about the issue but without any result," she regretted.
The Foreign Ministry's representatives in the meeting pointed to the possibility of the Russian government agreeing to consider the ID cards, issued upon the purchase of tickets, as a visa.
Ajdari said Russia has not finalized the decision yet but, if approved, travelers would not need a visa while holding the ID card.
Although very alluring for travelers, the decision has dismayed the 77 tour operators that were counting on organizing lucrative group tours to Russia for the World Cup.
"We had introduced the agencies as premier tour operators not only to the federation, but also to the Russian Embassy to facilitate the process of obtaining group visas, but if the law on allowing the entry of foreigners with a World Cup ID card is enforced, the agents will have no advantage," she said.
There are 4,700 ICHHTO-certified travel agencies in the country, which organize tours to Russia on a regular basis. These selected operators now cannot offer any special service to people interested in attending the global football event.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018.
The plan to organize a campaign to publicize Iran's attractions alongside the FIFA World Cup was also on the meeting's agenda, but the new development overshadowed the issue. It's up to ICHHTO to implement the plan and there is no reason to cancel the plan.