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Iran Seeking Foreign Visitors and Their Money

The United States and other countries plan to begin easing economic restrictions against Iran next year. The easing of sanctions is part of the deal between six world powers and Iran to limit its nuclear activities. Iranians hope that the end of travel restrictions will lead to more foreigners visiting the country. In London, travel agents say some people are already asking about how they can visit Iran.

Tour companies say very few non-Iranians have ever been to Iran. They describe the country as one of the unexplored jewels of the Middle East. They say the countryside is beautiful and its people friendly.

Foreigners have stayed away from Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In 2013, just 90,000 people from North America and European Union countries visited Iran.

Mehrdad Khonsari works at Iran’s Organization for Economic Reconstruction and National Reconciliation.

“The difficulties we’ve had in Iran has definitely hurt the tourist industry in the sense that people are afraid to go. But those people that ventured and, you know, overcame these considerations and visited Iran were never sorry.”

The nuclear deal reached in July is already helping to ease travel restrictions. Jonny Bealby founded Wild Frontiers Travel, a British travel agency. He says the agreement has led to an increase in interest in Iran.

“Two things have happened since the nuclear deal. First of all, the (UK) Foreign Office have changed their advice against travel to Iran, and that’s made it much simpler for people to get insurance and that sort of thing, so the numbers have gone up again. We’ve had to put on three extra departures this year alone to cope with demand for the autumn season to Iran.”

British traveler Buggsie Heath-Brown is joining one of those tour groups.

“We decided to get on one, the, of the first trips that we could to get out there; see the sights, meet the people before the big rush of the rest of the world.”

Iran says it hopes to have 20-million visitors a year by 2025. Mr. Khonsari says those tourists could spend up to $30 billion.

“Now that this outside face of Iran is beginning to change, that, I think that tourism offers a great opportunity for the Iranian economy.”

Tour operators in the West say getting permission from Iranian officials to enter the country is still difficult. Sanctions are still in place, limiting the ability of banks in Iran to operate outside the country. As a result, most payments have to be made in cash.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Henry Ridgwell reported this story from London. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

sanction(s) – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or trade with that country or by barring economic aid to that country;

tour – adj. relating to a trip through an area or place; n. a trip through a country or area

venture – v. to go somewhere that is unknown or dangerous

insurance – n. an agreement in which a person makes payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person is injured or dies, or to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a house, car or travel plans) if it is damaged, lost or stolen

cope with – v. to deal with problems and difficult situations

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