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Iran turns to crypto to enable easier spending by tourists

Iran’s government and private sector are eyeing cryptocurrencies to resolve a decadeslong lack of international payment channels in the Islamic Republic.
Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 13, 2018. Picture is taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration - RC1993E31370

When US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018 and reinstated harsh sanctions on Iran, many feared that Iran’s tourism sector, which has been continuously growing in recent years, would take a hit.

But while the number of tourists, mainly from Europe, has declined, the devaluation of the Iranian rial — triggered by sanctions and exacerbated due to poor management — lured many more foreign tourists to Iran, especially from neighboring countries. The rial lost more than 60% of its value in 2018, making Iran, already a price-competitive tourist destination, even cheaper. Intensified pressures also prompted both the government and the private sector to fast-track projects long in the pipeline.

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