Some $154m paid to support tourism businesses across  Iran

March 2, 2021 - 21:34

TEHRAN - The Iranian government has paid 6.5 trillion rials ($154.7 million at the official exchange rate of 42,000 rials per dollar) in loans to the tourism businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic across the country in the current Iranian year 1399 (started on March 20, 2020), the tourism minister has said. 

Although the coronavirus outbreak has caused significant damage to the tourism industry, one of the ministry’s strategic plans is to diversify tourism products, which is expected to expand economic prosperity, Ali-Asghar Mounesan announced on Monday.

Several historical structures and aging buildings have been revived and repurposed into different accommodation centers to attract more domestic and foreign travelers, he added.

In recent years, nature tourism has also gained popularity due to the country’s natural beauty and attractions, he explained.

In this regard, several eco-lodge units have been established even in the farthest regions of the country as well, the minister noted.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he expressed hope that limited Noruz trips would be possible, if practiced under health protocols, during the Iranian New Year vacations, which begins on March 21.

Government’s care and support packages

Last October, the deputy tourism chief, Vali Teymouri, announced that a new support package was approved to pay loans to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Depending on the type and activity of the businesses, they could benefit from at least 160 million rials ($3,800 at the official rate of 42,000 rials) to nine billion rials ($214,000) of bank loans with a 12-percent interest rate, he said.

The loans would 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.

Teymouri in September 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 had 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

Mounesan in October warned that Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism would be in a critical situation if the crises caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus continue.

Last August, the tourism minister said that the tourism sector of the Islamic Republic had 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.”

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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