Iran is trying to attract more tourists from Western countries whose citizens qualify for United States ESTA under Visa Waiver Program by stopping to stamp their passports. I visited Iran in late 2015 and wrote about my Visa-on-arrival experience here.
United States introduced legislation back in early 2016 that would disqualify otherwise eligible travelers from Visa Waiver Program for five years if they had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
Here’s the excerpt from Mehr News Agency (access their piece here):
Ali Asghar Mounesan, Iranian Vice President and Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), reassured hotel owners and those active in tourism industry that the Iranian government will provide protectionist measures to support the industry in the face of US unilateral sanctions on Iran.
To counter US sanctions and ease the tourists’ concerns, the passports of foreign tourists visiting Iran will not be stamped according to a bill which has been drafted and approved by the head of the ICHTO, the minister of industry, mine and trade, the Iranian police, and foreign ministry but not yet tabled at the council of ministers, according to Mounesan who made the point at Hotel Espinas in Tehran.
With entry and exit stamps not to be put on the passports of the visiting tourists, we are after removing tourists’ concerns about visiting Iran because of US sanctions, he added.
Merely not stamping someone’s passport still disqualifies them under the Visa Waiver Program. This assumes that the US authorities don’t get the travel information from elsewhere such as the payment processor or GDS used.
Not sure how they will handle the visa-on-arrival if they decide not to stamp the passports? I guess that they can attach that to a separate paper that need to be surrendered at the time of leaving the country.
The Iranian travel sector is facing challenges and the number of western travelers to the country has actually dipped. I don’t think that merely not stamping passports helps or would reverse this.