Experts say Iran set for tourist boom
19 September 2016 08:43
Tourism is set to grow in Iran over the next 12 months
British Airways' decision to launch direct flights from London to Tehran earlier this month positions Iran as one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2017, according to experts.
Andrew Shelton, managing director at Cheapflights.co.uk, says: "Our data shows Iran is already on the radar as the UK's second most affordable long-haul country to fly to after the UAE.
"Now British Airways is back in Iran, other airlines may follow - Air France relaunched their service in April this year - and flight prices may fall further."
Bookings to Iran increase
The reopening of the Iranian embassy in London, lifting of sanctions, and the relaxing of travel advisories earlier this year is already resulting in rising bookings.
G Adventures offers a Discover Persia tour and reports its sales are up 200% year-on-year. Rachel Wasser, G Adventure's global product manager, cites "magnificent mosques, diverse history and unrivalled hospitality" as drawcards for the country.
Travel is becoming easier
Access is still restricted, making escorted group tours the easiest option for travel.
British citizens do require a tour guide, but this doesn't have to be one approved by the state - which is still the case for Americans, and Britons also have the freedom to use Iran's public transport.
While the visa application process is now much easier, direct-to-local travel platform Evaneos recommends allowing at least 40 days for the lengthy procedure, which requires a visit in person to the embassy in London.
Although Iran continues to be the focus of ongoing controversy, local Evaneos agent Fatemeh, says: "While it is no secret that a number of its neighbouring countries are experiencing varying degrees of instability, Iran itself has remained a very safe place, and there is no reason why tourists should feel that a trip here poses them any sort of threat."
Instead, she says the main challenge facing the country is meeting demand for hotel rooms - although increasingly tours are incorporating homestays.
Regent Holidays has been running trips to Tehran for several years and includes nights in local houses as part of its 14-day Highlights of Northern Iran tour.
In the next 12 months, tourism is set to grow in Iran, and the chances are more tours and flight routes will soon follow.
Tourists can protect themselves while on holiday by taking out travel insurance.