Iran Pays Agencies to Lure Western Tourists

Iran tourismWe could all use a little peace, love, and understanding it seems–and that’s worth $20 a head in Iran’s book.

The Associated Press is reporting that Iran is offering travel agencies $20 a pop to bring in more U.S. or European tourists and $10 a person for other nationalities. While I’m all for cross-cultural understanding, the cynic in me says this is really just a straight-up marketing expenditure to turn around the fortunes of a battered tourism industry. After all, it’s not easy attracting western tourists when your leader rants like a delirious nutjob, you’ve got mullahs trying hard to build a nuclear bomb, and the women who visit have to wear a head scarf to go out in public. Then there’s that nagging problem of the billboards and paintings describing the U.S. as “the great satan.” That’s a nice welcome when you get off the plane.

But hey, every place has its pros and cons–the cons in Iran are just a bit more bizarre here than in most places. Believe it or not though, Tehran was once part of the famed “hippie trail” for backpackers. In tomorrow’s new issue of Perceptive Travel, there’s a story on the place from Rory MacLean, author of Magic Bus. Get a sneak peek here: Dark Side of the Moon in Iran.

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