Iran on Google’s Radar

Travel & Environment Desk
Taking notice of the rising demand to visit Iran, Google has decided to help travelers find relevant information and even book tickets
Google's travel guides for Iranian cities are easy to use and very helpful, but could be better. (Photo: Amir-Hossein Baratloo)Google's travel guides for Iranian cities are easy to use and very helpful, but could be better. (Photo: Amir-Hossein Baratloo)
Gone are the days when Iran was shunned by the international community

Gone are the days when Iran was shunned by the international community; when airlines closed routes and tourists would rather go for a stroll down a familiar alley in their hometown than visit millennia-old structures in a country hosting 21 world heritage sites.

After the signing of the historic nuclear deal with the six world powers last year and the subsequent lifting of most economic sanctions in January, Iran once again finds itself on travel brochures from Thailand to the United States.

Currently, more and more airlines are launching direct flights to Tehran and other popular destinations in the Middle East's safest and most politically stable country.

And the Internet's all-seeing, all-knowing entity—Google—has taken notice.

Type "Iran" followed by a relevant word such as "destinations" or "tourism" and you're provided with a short list of Iran's popular destinations. Click on "more destinations" and you'll get a full list of the country's tourism hotspots.

Most readers will argue that this isn't a new feature and they would be right. What is new, however, is what comes next.

Click on any city and you'll be directed to a page complete with a short description of the city, its map (courtesy of Google Maps, naturally), top sights along with tourists' ratings of attractions, videos and useful tips such as the best time to visit, as well as high and low temperatures in every month.

But without a doubt, the standout feature is the ability to plan your trip.

On the platform's desktop version, right below a panoramic photo of the city and to the right of the destination's description is a hard-to-miss button clearly labeled "plan a trip". Click it and you're taken to another page where you can browse for airline tickets and hotels.

For convenience, Google provides a rough estimate of your travel costs (return ticket plus your stay at a hotel) in a neat blue box.

While booking your flight is only a few clicks away, paying for a hotel room isn't as simple due to international banking restrictions that do not allow Iranian business to accept foreign credit cards. However, you might be able to book a room with a simple phone call and pay for the room upon your arrival.

  Not Perfect, but Close Enough

Google still needs to do a bit more to make its new feature more convenient. For example, the city descriptions are taken from Wikipedia, which do not necessarily include information of interest to tourists. Furthermore, Google only offers an incomplete list of hotels above three stars. Hotels below that rating and hotel apartments do not make the cut, which can limit the budget travelers' choices.

All in all, however, Google's inclusion of Iranian destinations (plus a plethora of useful information and the ability to book a flight) on its tourism platform is sure to draw more attention to Iran whose global profile has been rising steadily over the past year.

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