Some $1.7b proposed for corona-affected tourism businesses

January 23, 2021 - 17:29

TEHRAN – The national budget bill for the next calendar year (starting on March 20) has proposed 70 trillion rials (about $1.7 billion at the official exchange rate of 42,000 rials per dollar) to support tourism businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

If the budget receives parliament’s approval, it will be spent on different sectors of the tourism industry, which has taken a major hit from the coronavirus outbreak over the previous months, IRNA quoted tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan as saying on Saturday.

Despite the toughest economic pressures and sanctions, the government has provided good support to all sectors of tourism, the minister said.

However, there is hope that the beginning of mass vaccination against the coronavirus will provide better conditions for tourism and businesses related to this sector, he explained.

Referring to the quarantine hotels across the country, he expressed his appreciation for measures taken to turn certain hotels into shelters for coronavirus patients and health care staff to lighten the health ministry’s burden.

The sale of handicrafts is partly related to the prosperity of tourism and the presence of foreign tourists, he said, hoping for the prosperity of tourism through containing the coronavirus.

Government’s care and support packages

In late October, deputy minister Vali Teymouri announced that a new support package to pay loans to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic has been approved.

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

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.

Tourism industry in critical situation

In October, 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, the minister 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.”

Last 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 also allocated a 750-trillion-rial (about $18 billion) package to help low-income households and small- and medium-sized enterprises suffered from 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/MG

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