Coronavirus News Asia

Iran’s tourism lung choked by Covid-19

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Iran’s tourism sector, the pearl of the post-nuclear accord and one of its last economic lungs under sanctions, now faces coronavirus-induced unraveling.

The industry “cannot survive and will collapse” in the face of the recession precipitated by the global Covid-19 crisis, Iran’s official IRNA news agency assessed late last month.

The stark warning came even as Iranian authorities proceeded with a phased re-opening of certain businesses and places of worship.

Should the government of President Hassan Rohani fail to intervene and support the tourism industry, more than 1.5 million jobs risk being lost, IRNA reported.

Banafsheh Tehrani is one of some 13,000 Iranian tour guides and tour leaders who have already lost their jobs to the novel coronavirus outbreak and subsequent global economic slump.

“It was almost two weeks after the outbreak in Iran that I was told I had lost my job. The travel agency I worked with was also closed down temporarily. The agency was shut down because it didn’t have the means to afford the rental and the wages of the staff. It was a small company, lacking the resources to continue operating without income for several months, so its closure was inevitable,” she told Asia Times.

It was on the reports that Iran’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts has asked the government for a total of $245 million in emergency funds to revive the tourism-related businesses and ventures that are blighted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government turned down the proposal, instead offering to give out loans of 160 million rials ($1,032) to the tourism sector employees and practitioners impacted. The interest rate for this loan is set at 12%, repayable in two years.

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