Iran’s already becoming the new “Cuba” before Cuba could become the new Cuba.
Last month’s sanctions removal did more than improve US-Iran political relations—it also helped revive the Islamic Republic’s tourism appeal among Americans. According to The New York Times, Iranian tour operators have seen a surge in bookings to the Middle Eastern nation, saying the demand has been so acute they’re racing to add new departures.
“It’s similar to Cuba in my mind where suddenly it’s both OK to go there officially but also with travelers thinking this place is going to change,” said Barbara Banks of Wilderness Travel, which already sold out its spring trips to Iran.
Much like the initial draw of Cuba, American travelers, undeterred by State Department warnings, hope to experience the long-isolated country before it becomes saturated with fanny-pack toting families.
Among Europeans, Iran’s been a trendy tourist destination for years. Flocks of Brits and Germans flood to Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and Persepolis each year. Just last fall Iranian officials counted five million foreign travelers to the country, and by 2025, Iran hopes to attract 20 million tourists.
Those travelers currently keen on exploring the republic will need to overcome a handful of
infrastructural issues first—like minimal lodging, shoddy roads, banking restrictions and rustic public restrooms.
Additionally, Islamic rules require that women must cover their hair and dress conservatively in loose tunics that go past the knee. Guys, no shorts are allowed. And perhaps most alarming for many travelers is the illegality of alcohol. Thankfully, the ancient beauty and picturesque landscape balances this out.
If that weren’t enough to deter Americans, the many “Death to Americans” signs shall spark fear. That is until they realize that Iranians—individually, not necessarily politically—actually love Americans.
Interested in Iran? Here are some resources on how to make it happen.
? Iran Luxury Travel: Trips start at $2,995/person, double occupancy for eight days
? Mir Corporation: Operates about ten different trips, be it train trips or small groups
? Golden Eagle Luxury Trains: Run tours via sleeper trains, and Americans account for 88 percent of its passengers in Iran.
? Mountain Travel Sobek: Runs two trips through Persia each year.
Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.