Tourism minister asks people to delay travels in face of coronavirus

March 4, 2020 - 19:29

TEHRAN – Iranian tourism minister has asked people to postpone or reschedule tours so as to help the tourism industry deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

“My suggestion to my dear people is that they do not cancel their hotel reservations and domestic tours as far as possible in order to help the tourism industry and prevent it from bankruptcy by making their reservations in time after virus is controlled,” Ali-Asghar Mounesan said on Wednesday.

“Public health is a top priority for us in the tourism ministry as we were among the first bodies started collaborating with the Ministry of Health as soon as the coronavirus outbreak was announced in Iran. And at the first step we put restrictions on both inbound tours and domestic trips.

With cases of novel coronavirus reporting around the country and around the globe, potential travelers are wondering what this means when it comes to their personal safety—and for their upcoming trips with many have/aiming to cancel reservations or reschedule them.

Domestic travel in Iran reaches its climax from mid-March to early April, a time corresponding to the Persian New Year (Noruz) holidays. Iranians made 74 million overnight stays in their domestic trips during the Noruz holidays last year, which showed a 20 percent increase year on year.As of Feb 23, Iran temporarily closed cultural heritage museums and historical sites in 15 provinces in a preventive measure amid fears of coronavirus outbreak.

Mounesan in January issued a statement, inviting all travelers and holidaymakers to visit the ancient land, saying that the country-size guesthouse is wholeheartedly ready to receive tourists from around the world.”

Over $16m returned over cancelations 

Deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri said on Wednesday that more than 700 billion rials (over $16 million) have so far been paid back to people who have cancelled their tour or hotel reservations over the coronavirus fears.

Teymouri also thanked “dear compatriots” and tourists for their cooperation with the “family of the tourism industry” in the country, who are considering the special economic conditions of the tourism activists at this time and attempt to postpone their travels to a more convenient time, if possible.

Domestic travel in Iran reaches its climax from mid-March to early April, a time corresponding to the Persian New Year (Noruz) holidays. Iranians made 74 million overnight stays in their domestic trips during the Noruz holidays last year, which showed a 20 percent increase year on year.

Global travel industry may not recover for years

The travel boom has come to a screeching halt since late January, when the novel coronavirus outbreak hit mainland China, and it could be years before the global tourism industry recovers.

An industry group has said the coronavirus could scythe $560 billion from spending on corporate global travel this year, a 37 percent drop from its 2020 global expenditure forecast, as meetings and events are cancelled and companies limit travel to protect employees.

The U.S.-based Global Business Travel Association said late in February that two-thirds of polled members had postponed at least a few events, while 95 percent had suspended or cancelled most or all trips to China and 23 percent to European countries such as France, Germany and Italy.

The virus was fundamentally affecting the way companies do business, said the association’s chief operating officer Scott Solombrino.

The growing death toll has sparked worldwide travel ramifications, forcing the cancellation of major conferences like Berlin’s ITB—the largest travel and tourism event in the world—closures of tourist sites such as the Louvre museum in Paris, airlines cancelling flights and companies cancelling business travel at alarming rates.

According to a recent Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) survey of 401 companies, 65% report that they have cancelled meetings or events due to the coronavirus. The travel app Hopper analyzed billions of airfare prices and flight searches to see how the coronavirus is impacting travel and noted that demand is plummeting in many international destinations.

The World Health Organization has not declared COVID-19 a pandemic, but experts are saying that it could be the worst travel crisis since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Iran third fastest growing tourism in 2019

Couple of weeks before the virus spread, Iran was emerging as the third fastest growing tourism destination in the globe in 2019, with 27.9 percent growth year on year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Top of the pack was Myanmar, which saw a 40.2 percent increase in visitors, followed by Puerto Rico (31.2 percent) and Iran (27.9 percent).

The Islamic Republic plans to increase the number of tourism arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million by 2025 thanks to its numerous tourist spots, including 22 ones that have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

AFM/MG

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