Wholesalers

Tour operator cancels Iran trips

Tara Harrison

Tara Harrison

IS THE HOT SPOT OF 2017 NOW A NO-GO?

We all love a list of the places to go for the year. Iran featured for 2017, along with Japan, Iceland and Sri Lanka, thanks to the crystal ballers of travel.

And so, tour operators responded in kind, launching trips that took in the mosques of Shiraz and hospitality of Tehran.

“When the travel sanctions were lifted just over a year ago, we saw a huge explosion in enquiries,” Crooked Compass founder Lisa Pagotto said.

But then, Trump came along. We all know the details. Targeting seven countries for exclusion as reported here with the industry reactions detailed here.

Although the ban has since been overturned by the American judicial system, insecurity reigns. Talk now centres on a more stringent travel ban roll-out.

“This small window that was re-opened with Iran deemed a safe travel destination, feels like it is slowly closing,” Pagotto said.

The aftershocks have been felt throughout the American travel industry, with tour operators cutting back on their departures to Iran.

But what of Australian operators?

Crooked Compass has canned their Iran trips entirely.

The boutique tour operator knows travellers are nervous.

“There are many people who are uncomfortable with President Trump’s way of approaching and managing situations with regards to foreign policy,” Pagotto said.

“Travellers from multicultural backgrounds as well as travellers who have been to some of the countries that are now ‘banned’ are uneasy,” Pagotto said.

The very concept of a travel ban is enough to put global travel on edge. There’s also the issue of retaliation for US citizens.

“In response to the USA’s travel bans on Iranian’s entering the States, Iran has stopped approving visas for US citizens to enter Iran,” Pagotto said.

Governments have subsequently recently placed Iran under ‘do not travel’ and ‘high risk’ restrictions.

Crooked Compass has witnessed Iran’s trajectory from a high degree of interest to a complete drop off of enquiries and an ongoing string of cancellations.

Travel Weekly also approached Iran tour operators Intrepid Travel, G Adventures and Cox and Kings.

They all said the situation was too fresh to make a judgment on, and that no cancellations had occurred – yet.

G Adventures said they hadn’t witnessed or identified any disruptions in customer confidence in booking to Iran.

Explore, part of the Cox and Kings portfolio, said their 14-day Treasures of Iran tour is booked out until May.

“There is no effect from ‘The Donald Syndrome’. Bookings are flowing in and returning travellers are coming back raving about the destination and the welcome received from the locals,” Explore Australia product leader Lindsay Cowan said.

Then there’s the question of the type of traveller drawn to Iran.

“Most travellers choosing Iran as a destination are generally pretty open minded and resilient,” Intrepid Africa and the Middle East regional product manager Jenny Gray said.

Others are taking a wait-and-see approach, even those traveling from the States.

“There are still plenty of US travellers booked on trips later in the year who have chosen to sit tight and see if this is just a temporary situation,” Intrepid Africa and the Middle East regional product manager Jenny Gray said.

“Our sales have been incredibly strong over the last 18-24 months and unless something significant happens I’m confident that will continue,” Gray added.

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