Coronavirus may move travel into ‘the realm of luxury’ in Iran

The coronavirus pandemic may turn tours and travels in Iran into luxury items as observing health protocols will rise the cost of travel in the country, Mohammad Ali Vaqefi, the vice president of the Iranian Tour Operators Association, has warned.

“With the continuation of the coronavirus outbreak, tourists may prefer individual travel rather than tours. They may also choose to go on a trip by their own vehicle and stay in tents or in nature instead of hotels,” Vaqefi explained, ISNA reported on Sunday.

In the global scene, part of the new travel puzzle is the jet-set mindset focusing on tough hygiene care and social distancing as cardinal guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus.

So the average expenditure will be raised for a typical traveler particularly inbound passengers so lesser ones can afford to buy privacy and space and safer travel amenities.

On the other hand, the elderly constitute almost 80 percent of cultural tourists to Iran, whose number will decrease and as a result, the cost of travel services will be increased, Vaqefi added.

So far, 90 percent of the 2020 inbound tours have been canceled, and the possibility of canceling the remaining 10 percent is still high, he noted.

He also stated that neighboring countries strictly control the prices and they could lure Iranian tourists, while the country is at the risk of losing even domestic travelers due to the high prices.

Vaqefi also asked the government to support to the tourism industry and try to keep it alive and strong.

Another point of view expressed by Vali Teymouri, the deputy minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts, says that the tourism industry of Iran will get back on the right track sooner than expected thanks to measures taken to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

“I believe that tourism industry of the country will get back on the right track far sooner than generally expected thanks to the measures taken to deal with the spread of coronavirus in tourist destinations, hotels, stopovers, and all the centers which are affiliated with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts,” Teymouri said to the Tehran Times last month.

Apart from the expenses and their certain effects, many domestic experts expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

Earlier in April, the Iranian government announced it will bail out those which are grappling with fiscal problems by offering loans with a 12-percent interest rate. The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts also suggested a rescue package for tourism businesses.

The government has also allocated a 750-trillion-rial (about $18 billion) package to help low-income households and small- and medium-sized enterprises suffered by the coronavirus concerns.

On April 20, Iran lifted intercity travel bans days after President Hassan Rouhani unveiled a “Smart Social Distancing Initiative” as a new phase of measures to prevent the virus spread. Over the past couple of months, many countries, including Iran, imposed travel restrictions to help curb the spread of novel coronavirus. In this line, incoming and outgoing flights have been suspended, and road travels restricted to a great extent.

Iran expects to reap a bonanza from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 24 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, it aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

The latest available data show eight million tourists visited the Islamic Republic during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2019).

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