People, Travel

1st Airbnb-Style Website Launched in Iran

1st Airbnb-Style Website Launched in Iran1st Airbnb-Style Website Launched in Iran

An Airbnb-style accommodation service has been launched by a Swiss company in Iran for tourists to list, find and rent lodging at a time when the Islamic Republic’s tourism is on the cusp of resurgence following the July 14 nuclear agreement, a report said.

OrientStay, which began operating two weeks ago, lists 200 flats in nine cities, including Iran’s top tourist destination of Isfahan. So far, five foreign customers have reserved accommodation, two of whom are currently visiting Iran, Tasnim News Agency reported.

Airbnb (meaning “Air bed and breakfast”) connects people to persoanl travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 26,000 cities and 192 countries

“Iran has a total of 1,500 hotels and these days when you want to reserve a room, all of them are full. The country has a lack of accommodation and more foreigners want to visit,” Mehrzad Khoi, the site’s director, told The Guardian on the sidelines of the second Europe-Iran Forum which opened in Geneva Thursday.

“But above all, our concept is to offer foreign tourists an authentic and real experience of Iran. We want them to see the real people, which is usually the biggest surprise for them,” he said.

“By doing this, we want to change the image of Iran worldwide. We want foreign tourists to experience our way of life, our culture and not as part of readymade, 10-member tours. We don’t want them to just see the nice ancient monuments; we want them to see the people. When tourists see the people, the image is more real and satisfaction is much better.”

At a time when Iran is experiencing a tourism boom, OrientStay offers an alternative to hotels booked through travel agencies and tour operators. Prices range from €20-€300 a night for one- to five-bedroom accommodation.

OrientStay, which has gained permission from the Iranian authorities to operate, is available only to incoming tourists, not resident Iranians. It takes all payment methods, giving it an advantage over hotels that cannot accept foreign cards because of banking restrictions.