People, Travel

Saudi Row Harmed Iran Tourism

Saudi Row Harmed Iran TourismSaudi Row Harmed Iran Tourism

Iran's row with Saudi Arabia blocked half of its inbound tourists from the Middle East, according to a Tehran city councilor. The January 2016 attacks on the Saudi Embassy and Consulate in Tehran and Mashhad, which were carried out by protesters infuriated by Riyadh's execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr without due process, led to the complete severance of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

During a conference on tourism on Saturday, attended by Zahra Ahmadipour, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, and Morteza Rahmani Movahed, deputy for tourism at the organization, Ahmad Masjed-Jamei added that the attacks took a heavy toll on tourism and pilgrimage to Iran, IRNA reported.

"We lost 700,000 Shia pilgrims from the region," he said, referring to those who travel to Mashhad to visit the shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH). Prior to the attacks, Iran received an average of 1.5 million tourists and pilgrims every year from the Persian Gulf littoral countries.

"Saudi tourist numbers have dropped by 90% and tourism from the region has declined by half," Movahed said.

The loss of tourists is felt in Mashhad, particularly by hoteliers who say their properties are virtually empty.

"We had so many tourists that Saudi and Bahraini travel agencies would book rooms in luxury hotels for an entire year," Mohammad Qanei, president of Mashhad Hoteliers' Association, was quoted as saying by ILNA.


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