Week in Brief 11.01.2019

Traveling abroad becomes more and more expensive for Iranians. Rising exchange rate has pushed down the number of foreign trips in Iran by 50 percent, claims the Travel Agencies Association of Iran (TAAI).

While previously Iranian air lines were entitled to official exchange rate of 40,000 rials for one USD, during the summer of 2018, the government stopped the practice. Consequently, air lines had to adjust their prices with the market exchange rate, i.e. 100,000 rials for a USD. The new policy sent prices sky high, more than twice.

Therefore, most of air tickets became twice as expensive as before. Additionally, traveling expenses, such as accommodation, food, etc., soared by rising exchange rate as well. Altogether, these factors have dramatically decreased the number of Iranian travelers abroad.

“Some people expected that by increasing costs of foreign trips, more people would travel within the country”, says Hormatolah Rafiee, Head of TAAI to Taadol Newspaper. “But this did not happen, because tourists who travel to other countries are different from those who are interested in visiting Iran”.

The number of domestic flights has also dropped by about 10 percent during 2018. Iranian air lines increased their domestic fares as well, explaining that their costs are mainly calculated in US dollars and therefore are affected by the exchange rate, no matter inland or outland.

The number of American tourists in Iran has risen by 27 percent within the first eight months of the Iranian year with respect to the same period a year ago. The Tourism Organisation of Iran says that while in March 2016 – 2017 the number of American tourists in Iran reached one of its highest records in the past years, i.e. 6700 people, less Americans visited Iran in the following year.

“Main reason is the negative publicity over traveling to Iran in America”, explains Mahmoud Bonakdarnia, a member of Tourism Association of Iran. “Americans know so little about Iran, that some of them think Iran does not give visa to them! Which is not true.”

Not participating in any traveling fair in the US is another reason that Iran touristic attractions remain quite unknown for Americans.

Although the number of American tourists has increased over the past eight months to reach 1800 people, still compared to five million foreign tourists who visited the country in this period, it remains quite negligible.

“We basically have no access to the American market”, continues Mr Bonakdarian. “If we meet some American travel agencies in other countries, we have the possibility of exchanging information and introducing potentials in Iran. While the number of tourists from other countries drop because the US creates difficulties for other nationalities visiting Iran, the Americans have no problem to get an Iranian visa in their passport.”