EghtesadOnline: Rising tensions between Tehran and Washington are increasingly affecting Iran's tourism industry.
More and more travelers choose to stay away, being afraid something might happen. But some, like Julius and Cornelia from Germany, are going anyway, DW reported.
Their holiday in Iran is a special experience; not just because of the captivation sights, smells and sounds in the bazaar in Tehran, but also because of the political tensions. Friends and family were skeptical at first, but the couple’s choice of Iran as a destination was a deliberate one, according to Financial Tribune.
Julius Friedrich (tourist): It is a country that is going through a difficult time, both socially and politically. That’s all the more reason for us to want to get a firsthand impression of what it’s like.
Julius and Cornelia are staying at “See You in Iran”, a hostel and cultural house, started by young entrepreneurs after the nuclear deal was signed. Guests from around the world can exchange ideas here and break down prejudices.
But rising tensions between Washington and Tehran are hitting visitor numbers, especially from Europe.
Reyhaneh Abdi (“See You in Iran Cultural House): In the past couple of weeks, we had some reservations cancelled because of … because, the tourists, they were afraid something might happen because like, all these threatening tweets Trump posts.
And that’s not just a problem for the hostel, but for everyone who makes their living from tourism.
Ebrahim Pourfaraj from Iranian Tourism Association: Hotels and drivers earn money from tourism. Art galleries, restaurants and tour guides all benefit. Everyone does well from it, especially all the women who work in the industry.
Fewer guests from Europe means a squeeze on incomes, just as US economic sanctions are making life more expensive for Iranians.
The downturn is a worry for the private sector. But the weak rial helps bring in tourists from the region. They come on pilgrimages, or for medical treatment. To some extent, that makes up for the losses.
Julius and Cornelia are also benefiting from this. Their holiday is much cheaper than they were expecting. Apart from that, they haven’t really been affected by the dispute over the nuclear agreement.
Julius: In spite of the tough economic situation and the political crisis, everyone we’ve met has been cheerful and hospitable. Iranians are getting on with life, they’re looking to the future, and they’ve given us a warm welcome.
So the trip has paid off, despite some initial misgivings. Julius and Cornelia can see themselves coming back to Iran.
World's Most Price Competitive in Travel and Tourism
Iran has been ranked the first worldwide in terms of price competitiveness in the World Economic Forum's "The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019" with a score of 6.7.
Scores range from 1 to 7 where 1 means worst and 7 means best.
The report attributes Iran's top ranking to low ticket taxes and airport charges (7th), fuel prices (5th) and high purchasing power (5th).
"Price competitiveness" is in fact one of the four pillars of the "T&T Policy and Enabling Conditions" sub-index, which captures specific policies or strategic aspects that impact the T&T industry more directly.
"Lower costs related to travel in a country increase its attractiveness for many travelers as well as for investing in the T&T sector. Among the aspects of price competitiveness taken into account in this pillar are airfare and airport charges, which can make flight tickets much more expensive; the relative cost of hotel accommodation; the cost of living, proxied by purchasing power parity; and fuel price costs, which directly influence the cost of travel," the report reads.
Overall, Iran was ranked 89th worldwide with a score of 3.5 placed after Cape Verde and before Bolivia. Iran's ranking improved by 4 places as its score improved 3.4% since 2017. The country's difference from global average stands at -7.9%.
Among countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, Iran stood at 11th place after Tunisia and Kuwait. Regionally, the country's difference from global average stood at -3.7%.
Notably, the "ICT Readiness" pillar of the "Enabling Environment" sub-index, which captures the general conditions necessary for operating in a country, for Iran saw the most improvement in MENA region.
"Online services and business operations have increasing importance in T&T, with the Internet being used for planning itineraries and booking travel and accommodation. However, ICT is now so pervasive and important for all sectors, it is considered part of the general enabling environment," the report reads.
“The components of this pillar measure not only the existence of modern hard infrastructure [i.e. mobile network coverage and quality of electricity supply], but also the capacity of businesses and individuals to use and provide online services.