Although the cost of visiting Iran as a tourist has halved in the past six months, the number of Americans and Europeans visiting the country has dropped by 42 percent, according to Chief Executive of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ebrahim Farajpour.
The causes of the sharp decline, says Farajpour, are recently reimposed U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic and attempts by Western governments to “smear” Iran’s name.
Speaking to state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) reported October 23, Farajpour noted, "After the recent fluctuation in the local currency markets, Iranian tour companies dropped their prices by 56 percent because their foreign clients were well aware of the current dramatic downfall of the Iranian national currency, the rial, and expected prices to be adjusted accordingly."
Farajpour accused the government of failing to advertise and promote tourism in Iran and attract foreigners to the country.
Farajpour’s comments echoed earlier remarks by Iranian MP Shahabeddin Bimeqdar, who had criticized both the administration and the parliament for not allocating adequate funds for advertising the country’s tourist attractions.
“We only like to pay for cement, bricks, and rebar beams, not for advertising,” Bimeqdar said, adding, "Unfortunately, we only chatter about tourism and have no operational plan for it.”
Farajpour took his criticism one step further by lambasting the government’s decision to put state-owned radio and TV, Seda va Sima, in charge of promoting tourism.
"Local audiences are not our main target. We should advertise our country's attractions via commercials aired on large, influential, international TV networks” Farajpour said.
The head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization, Ali Asghar Mounesan, told ISNA on October 22 that regional tourists from nearby countries visiting Iran have increased by over 50 percent; although he did not specify in which time period.
"In the near future, Europeans will find out that Iran's current problem is solely related to its economic affairs and has got nothing to do with safety and security,” Mounesan said.
With 22 registered UNESCO World Heritage sites, Iran ranks tenth in the world for number of UNESCO monuments, higher than Japan, Brazil, Australia, and Turkey. Nevertheless, tourism has suffered during the last four decades since the Islamic Revolution.
An amalgam of different shortcomings and inefficiencies, including a lack of advertising, political challenges, and a lack of hotels and entertainment facilities are among the reasons tourists rarely opt to visit Iran.