Americans are finally starting to take advantage of the booming tourism industry in an exotic country with a history of dictatorship, unrealized nuclear threats and frosty relations with the U.S.
And we’re not talking Cuba.
After reaching an agreement with world powers in October to curb its nuclear program, Iran began bracing for a “tsunami” of foreign tourists to begin streaming in, with expectations of growing the country’s tourist industry to $30 billion by 2025.
While tsunami may have been a bit of a stretch, more than three million international travelers have already made it to Iran, and that number is expected to increase over the next decade.
To capitalize on the influx of new visitors, hoteliers like Accor and Melia Hotels International have secured properties in the area, and travel firm Intrepid has started to offer travel packages that take guests to visit Tehran, Shiraz, Caravanserai Zein-o-Din and other destinations.
“Iran really does appear poised to become the next Cuba,” says Intrepid regional director Leigh Barnes. “We’re seeing the exact same spike in interest from U.S. travelers as we did with Cuba a year ago. The people of Iran are incredibly hospitable and welcoming to not only U.S. travelers but travelers from around the world.”
If you make the trip, avoid giving any locals a grateful thumbs-up, as it’s the Iranian equivalent of flipping the bird.