The Status of Tourism in Iran for Americans

Yesterday the whole world was thrown into chaos by President Trump’s order to bar immigration from seven Muslim countries, one of which was Iran. A few hours later, a Federal judge in New York put a hold on that order and many people in transit or stuck at airports were able to proceed with their trips. We even got a call yesterday from a Wall Street Journal reporter asking how this news will affect our business.

Where does that leave Americans wanting to travel to Iran? Last night I wrote to a number of our clients, several of whom are scheduled to travel to Iran in the next few months. We had been informed by our travel associates in Iran that for the time being new visa applications are being put on hold but that visas already granted will be honored. We were advised to wait 2 weeks for a more definitive answer.

The Iranians are a very old and proud people. They are not likely to let in Americans if Americans do not let them in. We are hoping that sanity may somehow prevail in the United States and Trump’s unjust and illogical order will be overturned or abandoned. There has been strong criticism of it already, even by some Republicans.

Many people have noted that several Muslim countries where Trump has business interests were not affected in the order. Such places as Turkey, Egypt and the U.A.E. where Trump has hotels or developments in the works are not part of the immigration ban, even though those countries have had native-born terrorists. Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world by population, was not mentioned. Trump has business there as well.

And, of course, Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 9/11 bombers came from, was not mentioned. Perhaps it had to be 19 of 19 to be on the “danger” list?

It has also been pointed out that the odds of an American being killed by a foreign-born terrorist on American soil is around 1 in 3 1/2 billion (not million). This is lower than the chance of being hit by lightening. In fact, as far as we know, no American has been killed by an immigrant from one of the 7 targeted countries. If we are concerned about Americans being killed, which seems to be Trump’s major concern here, then perhaps we should be lowering the speed limit on our highways. That would save quite a few lives every year. Or perhaps we should be worrying about little children being killed by guns lying around the house, a regular occurrence here.

It can also be pointed out that Iranians have not attacked or killed Americans. They did not try to overthrow our government as we overthrew theirs in 1953 (try Googling Operation Ajax). And they have not shot down an American passenger plane with almost 300 people aboard (try Googling the Vincennes incident of 1983).

In fact, given the history of our two countries it is amazing how popular Americans are when they visit Iran. Pat and I were never more popular anywhere in the world as we were when we visited Iran.

I did notice today that the New York Times is still advertising their tours to Iran, which are only priced at around double the price of our tours and with more than twice as many people in a group. So perhaps tourism will continue after this flare-up.

As we have written to our clients, stay tuned to see what happens next. But don’t give up on going to Iran.  The Iranians may not be as vindictive and petty as we are and Americans may be let in again soon.