Tour operators in waiting mode on Iran

Tour operators in waiting mode on Iran

President Trump’s executive order barring entry to the U.S.
from Iran (along with six other countries) has spurred the Iranian government
to threaten reciprocal action, just as U.S. travel companies were seeing a
surge in interest in Iran.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement over the weekend
asserting that the Iranian government “will take reciprocal measures in
order to safeguard the rights of its citizens until the time of the removal of
the insulting restrictions of the government of the United States against
Iranian nationals.”

Until more is known about reciprocal measures, tour
operators — many of which have only recently added Iran itineraries to their
rosters — said that for now they are proceeding with planned departures.

“Last week, we announced our new tour of Iran with
departures starting in July. While we do not know where U.S.-Iran relations
will be in six months, we do know that our travelers have spoken clearly about
their desire to discover Iran,” said Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of SmarTours.

Geronemus said that within 48 hours of announcing the Iran tour,
the company had sold out multiple departure dates, and that it will continue to
offer its 11-day “Iran: Ancient Persian Wonders” tour from July
through November. “If Iran’s borders remain closed to Americans, we will
cancel the tours and provide travelers a full refund or apply the deposit to
another tour of choice,” added Geronemus.

Iran topped luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent’s “Where
to Go in 2017” list. The company said Monday that it had not received any
cancellations for its recently added Iran tours. A&K said that it was
working to obtain full and accurate information from both the U.S. and Iranian
governments to determine the way forward.

Iran foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted over the weekend
that “unlike the U.S., our decision is not retroactive. All with valid
Iranian visa will be gladly welcomed.”

Intrepid Travel has been running Iran tours since 2012. The
program has grown from a single itinerary to two itineraries with a total of 40
departures this year. Iran has been the company’s fastest-growing destination
in the Middle East, with 35% growth among North American travelers last year.

Thus far, Intrepid has not received any Iran cancellations and
has advised customers that U.S. travel to Iran is “business as usual for
now.”

“Anyone with a valid Iranian visa, including U.S.
citizens, should not have any concerns entering Iran,” Intrepid advised,
adding that there has been some speculation that there could be changes to Iran’s
policy in the coming days, which could mean that Iran stops issuing
authorization codes for U.S. passengers. According to Intrepid, travelers need
an authorization code from the Iranian government to travel to the country.

Added Intrepid, “Iran has been known to do this
periodically for U.S. travelers without notice or official advice.”

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