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Sun 5 Nov 2006 04:00 AM

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Business as usual for travel agents in Iran

Iran’s travel industry is booming, despite the threat of UN sanctions overshadowing the nation, the country’s travel agents and tour operators have claimed.

Iran’s travel industry is booming, despite the threat of UN sanctions overshadowing the nation, the country’s travel agents and tour operators have claimed.

Controversy over Iran’s nuclear enrichment activity has dominated the news headlines in recent months, but inbound and outbound travel trends have remained unchanged, according to Aref Dashtban, general manager, Khosro Parvaz Travel Co Ltd, an established travel agent in Tehran.

“While the issue is in the news every day, the travel business pattern in Iran is unaffected. It is business as usual,” he told ATN.

“Tour companies are not at a standstill position, waiting for the outcome of negotiations. There is no sense of imminent danger or slowdown.”

He emphasised that operators and travel agents were currently planning their packages for the next nine months, “with no hesitation”.

“They are blocking seats and paying deposits for the land arrangements, preparing themselves for demand for long weekend break destinations, such as Dubai. And of course, the peak travel season of Noruz (Iranian New Year from March 20 to April 2) is also on the agenda,” he added.

Dashtban said the travel behaviour of Iranians was typical this summer and that “airlines enjoyed good loads.”

Outbound demand for Europe was strong and despite the strained relations between Iran and the Bush administration, tours from Iran to the US were back on the agenda for the first time in many years, he added.

For example, Taghi Aghaei, chairman and managing director of Iranian Ziggurat Tour & Travel Company, Tehran, organised for a group of 30 Iranians to visit the US in September – the first Iranian delegation of its kind in 28 years.

He is now in the process of organising two similar trips in March next year, to coincide with the Iranian New Year if possible.

Aghaei also specialises in inbound tourism from the US, Europe and Asia, and although he is confident the UN will not impose travel sanctions on Iran, he has contingency plans should this situation occur.

“If there are no sanctions on flights, we can concentrate on our outbound business to compensate for slow inbound business, but we are thinking that in the worst case scenario, if sanctions are imposed, we will take people to Dubai or Turkey by boat and then fly them from there,” he said.

Dashtban is also upbeat about how Iran and its travel industry will fare over the coming months, as the world super powers continue to debate the country’s nuclear policies.

“I don’t think the issue will be left in a state of long lasting sanctions, because none of the parties involved will achieve anything,” he said. “This is my personal view and I know that the people in the travel business feel the same way, or don’t think about sanctions at all.”

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