Iran, US: United in the name of tourism


A high delegation of US tourism executives is in the Iranian capital city of Tehran this week for a historic meeting with both Iran’s public and private tourism sectors. The aim of their visit is to familiarize themselves with Iran’s tourism attractions and to discuss the possibilities of strengthening ties through tourism.

Call it a milestone in tourism; the unprecedented event was made possible via efforts between eTurboNews and members of Iran’s private sector. A few years in the making, the dialogue between the Haleiwa-based publication via publisher Thomas Steinmetz and Hamid Reza Talebi, a private tourism consultant in Tehran picked up steam early this year when Talebi himself visited the United States in an effort to cinch the deal.

He then took shared the agreement with Iran’s Ministry of Tourism, making it possible for the US delegation to be in Tehran this week. Without the commitment from the tourism ministry itself, the monumental event would have not taken place.

Since his visit to the US, agreements have been made between eTurboNews and Iranian tourism officials to pursue projects aimed specifically to facilitate tourism between the two countries, hence making it possible for the delegation to be in Tehran this week.

Talebi is to be commended for his efforts in bravely defying the rule of the day and pursuing what could easily have been a futile effort. Since his visit to the US, Talib has made sure he has attended events, such as the recently held International Peace through Tourism in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, to show his commitment to the cause of bridging Iran and the US through tourism.

As a result of eTurboNews’ efforts, Iran made the unprecedented move of issuing “visa on arrival” to the delegation, a first in the history of Iran-US relations. The normal protocol would have called for a lengthy process given the current political chess game that is currently being played by US and Iranian officials. Thus, proving yet once again that tourism plays an integral role in bridging cultural and societal gaps among nations. That at the end of the day, tourism does not only alleviate poverty, its significance far transcends economics in that it, and, to quote current Skal International Hulya Aslantas, “kills misconceptions.”

The historic visit of tourism executive to Tehran brings new meaning to the words “peace through tourism.” Undoubtedly, it is a level beyond rhetoric. According to Steinmetz who privately met with Iranian tourism officials, specific programs are going to be implemented in the coming months to facilitate a better tourism link between the US and Iran. Already another delegation from the US is scheduled to visit Iran in the coming months.

Concurrently, Tehran is hosting Iran’s first-ever International Tour Operators Convention where various tour operators from around the world are participating.