“We estimate that last year our tourism industry helped add about US$2 billion to our revenue,” Najafi said.
Now, Najafi said, the target was US$10 billion.
Chinese tourists are a priority.
“World figures show that China sends more tourists to visit other countries than anywhere else,” Najafi said. “With help from our embassy in China, we have spoken to Chinese tourism officials and we have invited a number of them to come to Iran.”
Najafi hoped foreign tourists would become “ambassadors for the goodwill of our country and our people” in the world.
“We have a secure and safe country ... but we in Iran should take the first step in persuading Westerners that they should have no fear in coming to Iran,” he said.
Amos Chapple, a photographer from New Zealand, said the Iran he saw was utterly different from the one represented in the West.
“Every traveler I met felt the same way: They had arrived expecting hostility and danger, but ended up amongst the most cosmopolitan and generous people in the Middle East,” he said. “Having visited three times, it’s just heartbreaking to see what damage the sanctions are doing to ordinary people who have nothing but goodwill towards America.”
Zoe Holman, an Australian journalist who visited Iran for the first time in 2003, said: “Despite the divisions projected in geopolitics by the ‘war on terror’ and Iraq war, I was surprised, and humbled, to discover that none of these prejudices seemed to have trickled down to affect Iranian attitudes towards Westerners.”
“I was struck by the cosmopolitanism of urban Iranians, their education, open-mindedness and their humorous irreverence for the religious regime,” Holman added.