People, Travel

French Tours Suspended

French Tours SuspendedFrench Tours Suspended

Following the tragic events that unfolded in Paris on Friday, Iranian tour and travel agencies have been forced to suspend tours of France until further notice.

In a rare move, French President Francois Hollande closed the country’s borders late Friday night in response to deadly terror attacks that plunged Paris into chaos late Friday and Saturday and left at least 129 dead and hundreds wounded. Hollande declared a state of emergency, meaning certain areas are closed and travel bans and other restrictions are put in place.

France operates under the Schengen Agreement, which consists of a common border and immigration policy consisting of 26 nations, the majority of which are European Union members. The Schengen Agreement took effect in 1995 and abolished the EU’s internal borders, enabling passport-free movement across the bloc. Only six EU member states — Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania — fall outside the Schengen zone.

Under the Schengen rules, signatories are allowed to reinstate internal border controls for 10 days for necessary “public policy or national security” reasons. If the problem persists, the controls can be maintained for “renewable periods” of up to 20 days and a maximum of two months.

As Mehr News Agency reports, Iranians who had acquired Schengen visas must now apply for a national French visa, which only allows travel within France’s borders.

  Uncertainty and Insecurity

Given the serious safety concerns in France, chances are Iranians who planned to visit that country may opt against traveling there for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, travel agencies have stopped promoting France tours.

Quoting Iranian tour operators, MNA reports that travel agencies have received no instructions from authorities about whether to cancel their tours or stick to their schedule, but they are nevertheless “erring on the side of caution.”

“Given the uncertainty of it all, travel agencies are advised to look into their end of the problem as soon as possible,” said Mohammad Hassan Kermani, director of the Association of Air Transport and Tourism Agencies in Iran.

“We don’t know how long France intends to impose its travel ban or when the state of emergency will be lifted. Agencies should either postpone their tours or offer different destinations.”

Kermani said postponing tours for a month seems to be “reasonable”.

Paris, which was voted the world’s top holiday destination in 2013, witnessed the worst terrorist attacks in Europe since the 2004 Madrid railway bombings. The Islamic State group, or Daesh, has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.