The upsurge in tourist numbers to Iran since economic sanctions were lifted in 2015 has been one of the most exciting recent success stories of the travel industry.
Ostracising Iran, quite apart from risking increased political radicalisation, can only damage the country’s new grassroots tourism industry. An industry which has recently benefitted so many people is now in danger of regress and maybe even collapse.
Which would be more than a shame.
So many international travellers are now excited by a visit to an under-discovered Middle Eastern country, but if the US authorities proceed with sanctions on US and foreign companies doing business with Iran, the threat to airlines and tour operators offering Iran tourism services will soon become evident.
The knock-on effect is that Iranian tourism stakeholders will cease benefitting from the recent good will, understanding and shared knowledge that international travellers bring. On the ground, the livelihoods of many Iranians will be majorly affected if traveller numbers stop expanding, or worse, go into reverse.
We at Nomadic Thoughts have always been excited to find and offer emerging destinations. Iran is an example of a country that we have engaged with recently as many of our clients are showing a continued interest in exploring its ancient cities, remote historical sites and the legendary friendliest of welcomes.
The economic fall out for the larger multinational investors will also impact on the economics and politics of the region. For example, Airbus and Boeing currently have over US$47 billion of advanced orders, which may have to be scuppered. Furthermore, how will the Iranian tourism industry be able to expand when US sanctions hit everything from the value of their currency to their ability to import new technologies?
Worse, the state of the whole Middle Eastern region’s security is now further under threat.
With Syria well and truly off the tourist list, and destinations like Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula often suffering the negative effects of a region seemingly dominated by radicalisation, bombs and bullets, it was hoped that Iran’s new-found tourist fame would improve international relations through everyday communication between ordinary people.
After all, a lack of understanding leads to fear, which in turn increases the prospect of war.
So, if for no other reason but in the name of Peace – the more tourists the better. What better way is there to enhance debate and share of ideas?
Let’s face it, visitor numbers to Iran have not looked so positive since the ‘Hippy Trail’ bailed out, after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
If only Trump had been a peace-loving, all-sharing hippy. If he had experienced Iran when it was at its most popular during the 1960s and 70s, and enjoyed a bit more Persian love and a few tokes on one of the Istanbul to Kathmandu hippy chillums, at the very least he would value the power of communication and travel and tourism.