Ebrahim Pourfaraj, the head of the Association of Iranian Tour Operators, said Iran's tourism industry is at its lowest point.
Pourfaraj revealed that tourists have been avoiding Iran for an extended period, even when offered free visits, leading to the closure of the industry and widespread unemployment among tour operators.
Speaking to Eqtesad Online, Pourfaraj emphasized that “the only visitors to Iran are individuals on pilgrimage,” and the lack of diverse tourism has severely impacted the livelihoods of those in the tour industry.
Iran, historically known for its rich cultural and historical heritage as well as its natural beauty, has struggled to attract foreign tourists in recent years, exacerbated by the high profile detention of foreigners and dual-nationals. Despite its allure, the country faced challenges such as strict dress codes for women and restrictions on alcohol and nightlife, particularly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Optimism for a surge in tourism emerged in 2015 when Iran and major powers reached a landmark nuclear deal. However, the hopes were dashed when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, triggering a downturn in Iran's tourism prospects.
Last year, the country experienced mass protests and detained several Europeans, prompting Western countries to issue travel advisories warning citizens against visiting Iran, citing the risk of "arbitrary detention."
In August, a tourism industry representative accused the government of providing false statistics on the growth of foreign tourism. Hormatollah Rafi'ee expressed concerns about the country's inability to capitalize on tourism opportunities, revealing that despite officials' claims of growth, the number of incoming tourists has declined in recent years.