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US sanctions threaten Iran’s high hopes for tourism

While the reimposition of US sanctions is likely to damage the revival of Iran’s tourism sector at least in the short term, the country’s ambitious plans to attract foreign visitors should not be written off.
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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's numerous tourist attractions, many of which stem from its rich history and civilization going back thousands of years, have the potential to transform into revenue streams far more sustainable than the country's vast oil and natural gas reserves. But this potential has remained largely untapped due to unyielding restrictions that deprive visitors of a number of basic liberties, Iran’s troubled foreign relations — mostly with the United States — and lackluster development caused by mismanagement.

As such, while Iran's tourism sector has grown, it has done so at a much fainter rate than those of neighboring countries such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which have conversely become magnets for scores of Iranian tourists. In this vein, even as 4.9 million foreign tourists visited Iran in the Iranian year ending March 20, 2017, the country's tourism balance is still heavily in the red since more than 9 million Iranians spent their money abroad during the same period.

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