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Hardliner Ayatollah Says Iranians Traveling Too Much, Wasting Money

Alamolhoda (C) sitting next to Ali Khamenei and his son-in-law Ebrahim Raeesi who is the head of Iran's Judiciary. FILE PHOTO
Alamolhoda (C) sitting next to Ali Khamenei and his son-in-law Ebrahim Raeesi who is the head of Iran's Judiciary. FILE PHOTO

The hardliner Friday Prayer Imam of Iran's second-largest city Mashhad has lambasted the Islamic Republic propaganda machines for promoting domestic tourism in Iran.

Speaking at the Friday Prayer ceremony on December 27, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda insisted that excursion and leisure traveling are not imperative for Iranian families.

Alamolhoda is the most powerful cleric in northeastern Iran, controlling the holy city of Mashhad and its rich shrine, which owns 40 percent of all real estate in the city.

Promoting tourism should be aimed at luring foreign tourists and gaining hard currencies, not at spending money by Iranians, Alamolhoda asserted. "How much does it cost for a family to go to a park, and how much should they spend on traveling? How necessary is leisure travel?" he demanded.

Blasting Iranians for "over-traveling" and taking too many trips, the powerful cleric accused Iranian families of behavior that makes the society "economically unethical."

However, based on the latest official data, the number of Iranians traveling abroad has dropped 12% in recent months. Touring inside Iran has also decreased since air tickets and hotels have become more expensive.

In the meantime, Turkey is still the prime destination for Iranian tourists since they do not need a visa to go there.

More than 1.6 million Iranians have visited Turkey in the first nine months of this year, according to Turkey's tourism office. Although this figure is two percent less than last year, in August and September the number of visitors from Iran skyrocketed.

Iranians are the fifth largest national group among Turkey's foreign tourists. In August, 45 percent more Iranians visited Turkey and in September 54 percent compared with the same months last year.

Iranians are also in the second spot among foreigners buying property in Turkey, second to Iraqi citizens.

Turkey's Statistics Center issued a report last week showing that Iranians have bought 3,324 units this year, which is 14.5 more than last year and 22 percent more than in 2017.

Iran's currency has lost its value fourfold against foreign currencies in the past two years, and more Iranians buying properties in Turkey can only mean that more affluent people are investing their money abroad.