Travelers in Limbo

Travelers in LimboTravelers in Limbo

Domestic tour operators have often been criticized for demanding high prices for tour packages.

In the past, Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, said the organization would crack down on tour agencies that increase tour fees without expanding services.

“If a tour package is expensive, people should not pay for it,” he said to Mehr News Agency, a vastly different stance compared with his previous statements.

“If people stop paying for expensive packages, tour agencies will have to reduce their prices. But people continue to buy these packages.”

Movahed said if increasing prices by 1.5 million rials ($45) is too much, people should boycott the responsible agency, but that is not what is happening.

“It is a positive feedback: As long as people continue paying for pricy packages, tour agencies will continue raising their prices.”

Recalling his previous statements, he said the organization will pursue complaints against agencies that do not expand services in concordance with increased prices.

  Chain Reaction

Movahedi said when hotels increase prices, airlines follow suit, forcing tour agencies to charge their customers more.

Tour agencies strive to keep consumers happy and they will not risk alienating them.

The official said if a package is too expensive for one person, it does not mean it is also expensive for another.

“We should consider our purchasing power, not others’. As long as there is demand, agencies will continue to offer tour packages at high prices.”

  Last-Minute Offers Banned

Despite ICHHTO’s tourism deputy urging people to stop purchasing pricy packages, the organization’s Tehran office issued a communiqué on Sunday banning tour agencies from advertising on the Iranian website, which is used by agencies to offer tour packages at competitive prices.

Offering last-minute deals at affordable prices has become the norm in the world and it has been warmly received by Iranian consumers in the past few years, ISNA reported.

Citing “market disruption”, Rajabali Khosrowabadi, the head of ICHHTO’s Tehran office, said reports and analyses indicate that tour agencies offer their services on the website at extremely competitive prices, which entices consumers but disrupts the market.

He said tour agencies have to be held accountable for false advertising, for which regulations must be approved and implemented.

Asked why the organization banned advertising on the website instead of shutting it down, Khosrowabadi said if illegal activity, such as false advertising, continues on the website, ICHHTO will shut down the website.

“But the organization is drawing up a set of guidelines to regulate last-minute deals, and we might have to lift the ban if the guidelines are approved.”

Until a decision is made on expensive tours and affordable last-minute deals, travelers remain in limbo.