Qom province suffers $190 million loss under COVID jolt

December 23, 2020 - 18:28

TEHRAN – Qom tourism industry, like many other Iranian provinces, has sunk further into recession, losing eight trillion rials (over $190 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials), as the result of a colossal financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tourism industry of Qom has taken eight trillion rials hit from the coronavirus outbreak over the previous months,” provincial tourism chief said on Wednesday.

Due to the long time closure and lockdown, tourism business units and facilities have faced several issues and problems, the most important of which is the lack of liquidity, Hamid Yazdani stated. 

The tourism sector is unable to pay for taxes and the insurance of its staff, while the units have problems for paying for energy carriers and maintenance costs as well, the official added. 

He also emphasized that the tourism businesses that are struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic need more support and a government-provided supportive package, which includes low-interest loans, could contribute to the tourism-jobs and businesses.

The country’s second-holiest city after Mashhad, Qom is home to both the magnificent shrine of Hazrat-e Masumeh (SA) and the major religious madrasas (schools).

Apart from sightseers and pilgrims who visit Qom to pay homage at the holy shrine, the city is also a top destination for Shiite scholars and students who come from across the world to learn Islamic studies at its madrasas and browse through eminent religious bookshops.

Economic response to virus-hit sector 

In late October, deputy tourism chief Vali Teymouri said that a new support package to pay loans to tourism-related businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic was approved by Iran’s National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control.

He also announced that depending on the type and activity of the businesses, they could benefit from at least 160 million rials (some $3,800) to nine billion rials (some $214,000) of bank loans with a 12-percent interest rate.

The loans will be allocated to tourist guides, travel agencies, tourism transport companies, tourism educational institutions, eco-lodges and traditional accommodations, hotels, apartment hotels, motels, and guesthouses as well as traditional accommodation centers, tourism complexes, and recreational centers, the official explained.

In September, Teymouri pointed to the 1.3 million tourism workers in the country, who are facing several issues due to the coronavirus crisis and said “This number, in addition to their households, includes a significant population that makes a living through tourism, who are needed to be considered in ministry’s decisions.”

Back in August, Teymouri announced that the tourism ministry has approved a total budget of 4,920 billion rials (over $117 million) to support corona-affected tourism businesses, covering as much as 36,000 people working in the tourism sector.

In October, Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan warned that Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism will be in a critical situation if the crises caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus continue.

In August, Mounesan said that Iran’s tourism has suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also noted that the coronavirus pandemic should not bring traveling to a complete standstill. “Corona is a fact, but can the virus stop tourism? Certainly not. For us, the coronavirus is a new experience in dealing with crises that teaches tourism experts around the world how to deal with such a disaster, and thankfully governments are turning this into an opportunity for better planning.”

Back in April, the government announced it will support those who 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 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.

Optimistic forecasts, however, 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.

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).

ABU/AFM

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