After two golden years of incipient opening, the Iranian tourist sector glimpses an uncertain present and future with the suspension of flights of numerous airlines and the instability created by the US sanctions.
Since last May, the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and once again imposed economic sanctions, the news for the sector has been discouraging and the visits of European tourists have been reduced mainly.
Like dominoes, European airlines have canceled the direct connections with Tehran that they established after the signing of the pact, making it difficult to travel to a country famous for its bazaars and mosques, and with more than twenty World Heritage sites.
"This has a negative effect," Amir Hosein, a tour guide with extensive experience in organizing tours for foreigners in Iran, told Efe, who recently canceled a trip by a British group.
The guide explained that before from London tourists could travel with British Airways, and that they preferred this airline to the Iranian Iran Air.
British Airways, which resumed its London-Tehran route two years ago, after four suspension due to the previous sanctions, announced its cancellation as of September 22 due to the low economic profitability.
Five days before he made his last flight to the Iranian capital from Paris Air France, and in the same way they acted the Dutch KLM and the Greek Aegean.
Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Alitalia are the only European airlines that still offer direct connections to Tehran, although the Austrian company has canceled its routes to the Iranian cities of Isfahan and Shiraz.
Asked by Efe at a recent conference, the head of the Organization of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, Aliasghar Munesan, acknowledged that "direct flight helps much to further growth of the tourism sector."
However, he stressed that these airlines operated flights with Tehran for "a short period of time", so their suspension "is not a serious problem since there are indirect routes", such as Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways, and the service continues. the Iranian airlines.
The suspension of flights and sanctions are not the only challenges facing the sector. The continuous declarations of the American president, Donald Trump, against Iran generate fears.
In the opinion of Amir Hosein, many potential tourists "are afraid" and think that Iran "is not safe". They are also hampered by the difficulties that a visit to the Persian country can cause when it comes to applying for a visa for the United States.
In this regard, the head of the Tourism Organization and also vice president noted that "this US propaganda" is harmful but, he assured, that, although in the short term there are changes in the type of tourist, "balance" will return.
In recent months, the number of pilgrims and tourists from neighboring countries such as Azerbaijan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey has increased, but the arrival of Europeans fell by 24% compared to the same period last year, according to official data.
Trying to be optimistic, the authorities have stressed that due to the devaluation of the national currency, which has lost 70% of its value against the dollar since May, the country is now a cheap destination for foreigners.
This depreciation and monetary instability has, however, two sides. Amir Hosein pointed out that some international agencies have canceled their tours to Iran because of the difficulties of setting a price in the face of the continuous fluctuations in the exchange rate.
In addition, US sanctions have affected such simple processes as booking a hotel room in Booking. From the company they confirmed to Efe that they have eliminated "all the properties in the country of its website and of the mobile applications to comply with the changes announced by the US Government".
It is true that the service was only active for a couple of years and with a limited supply of hotels, but it had a positive effect.
"Surely Booking helped us to increase the number of tourists and to present our hotels, but his departure is not serious, as we have returned to the situation two years ago," said Munesan.
A setback that, however, worries the sector, which had planned to go from 5 million tourists last year to 20 million in 2025, a goal that now seems hard to achieve.