Illegal Chinese Lodgings, Workers Under Investigation
The Inbound Tourism Safety and Security Commission of the National Security Council is reviewing a complaint filed by Tehran's tourism authorities on the illegal accommodation of Chinese tourists in Iranian facilities not meant to be used for the purpose.
"The commission has convened three times so far to review the matter and the details of the lodging facilities have been compiled," Ali Rafiei, tourism deputy at the provincial office of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, was quoted as saying by ISNA.
He added that this is an exigent circumstance and action must be taken as soon as possible.
In Tehran alone, 10 homes have been identified, the news agency quoted an unnamed tour guide as saying.
The homes illegally rented out to Chinese tourists are used by Chinese workers or students pursuing studies here. In other words, some Chinese nationals are running hotels in Iran without an official permit.
Such illegal activities are believed to have been going on for around three years, but the authorities only began to address the matter six months ago. No decision has so far been taken to end the problem.
The Chinese are active in a variety of sectors, from hospitality to leisure, which has drawn the ire of a number of Iranian entrepreneurs who say their businesses are suffering as a result, according to the travel news website Safar.
A number of Chinese students are said to be working as interpreters for visitors from their home country, especially business tourists.
Citing strict regulations in other countries, critics say foreign students should not be allowed to work. However, some argue that due to the lack of Iranian tour guides fluent in Mandarin, allowing Chinese students (many of whom speak basic Persian) to work as interpreters is a no-brainer.
Ali Rafiei said supervisory bodies are reviewing the issue and legal action will be taken as soon as their reports are completed. But he stressed that the issue is very delicate since it involves foreign nationals and international relations, because of which the consequences of actions have to be carefully considered before any move is made.
"We do not want to take an aggressive and thoughtless measure [with regard to foreign illegal accommodation and workers]," he said.
"Although any illicit activity, small or large, should be stopped, priorities must be considered carefully when it concerns international matters."