US Budget Bill Threatens Iran’s Tourism Industry

World politics has nipped Iran’s blossoming tourism industry in the bud. Barely had Iran’s traditionally strong tourism industry begun to reap the rewards of the 11th government’s relatively logical decisions, when once again, the doors began to close on tourism in Iran because of politics on the other side of the world — this for an industry that had been hailed in past years as a “culture-based economy to replace oil” and referred to as the “cultural-economic revolution.”

With all this in mind, the bill that U.S. Congress passed recently limits tourists from certain countries from entering the United States without a visa. Once the bill goes into effect, citizens of these countries who have visited Iran and several other Islamic countries, including Sudan, Iraq and Syria, will have to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. According to Paragraph 203 of the U.S. 2016 Budget Bill — which was signed into law by President Obama after it passed in the Senate — if citizens of the 37 countries [that are part of the Visa Waiver Program] have visited Iraq, Syria, or countries considered supporters of terrorism by the State Department, they cannot, as in times past, enter the U.S. without a visa. Additionally, under the new law, those who have dual citizenship with one of these “terrorist” nations will have to apply for a visa to go to the U.S., including Iranians who are citizens of the Visa Waiver participant nations like the United Kingdom, Australia or France.

The passing and implementation of this bill — apart from its implications for a possible violation of the terms of the nuclear deal [i.e. the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in July], which is not the main subject of this article — affects the nations mentioned therein on different cultural, societal and historical levels. It is to a certain degree tolerable and understandable that Iran would be placed beside two countries like Iraq and Syria, with which we have a longstanding historical relationship outside the context of politics and war-mongering, since they were one-time parts of greater Persia. However, it is quite far-fetched and unfair to place Iran among the ranks of a country like Sudan, with its colonial and slave-trading past, especially considering the comments of Foreign Minister Ali Karti, who stated that Sudan and Iran have at no point in time been allied.

Moreover, it is an abuse of the term “terrorist-sponsoring nations” [to apply it to] a country that inscribed the word “peace” for the first time on its historical tablets in a declaration of human rights and in this way recognized the world’s desire for peace; a country that has been dragged into many challenges and political conflicts by force, against the will of its people and government, simply because of its strategic location in the sensitive region of the Middle East.

In a way, this newly passed bill, which imposes limits on the economies of the mentioned countries in terms of attracting tourists, indicates that the United States is also dealing with some difficult economic conditions. As we have seen, since the 11th government came to power, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in foreign tourists entering Iran, particularly in the last two years, so much so that, as the head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization said, since March 2014, the number of European tourists that have toured inside in Iran has leapt to 240 percent of what it was over a similar period last year.

This upward trend has continued into the current year as well: There has been a 7.5 percent increase in foreign tourists in 2014 and an average growth rate of 12 percent in the past two years, which is three times the global average (4.6 percent). These increases provide strong evidence for the Tourism Organization’s claims and have breathed new life into the country’s tourism industry.

With the passing of this bill, the hope that tourism may replace oil as the country’s great industry seems to be slipping away. [The bill] reveals the political imbalance between Iran and the P5+1 in the recent negotiations, and that Iran will be prevented from developing a stable economy even post-sanctions. At the same time, the bill will also damage the U.S. economy. According to published findings, even if only half of the travelers included in the bill decide not to travel to the U.S., the economic cost for the U.S. would be over $27.2 billion, which is equivalent to the amount of money that is spent by these tourists while traveling in the U.S. This would represent a loss of $62.6 billion in total economic output and lead to the loss of 11,000 jobs in this sector.

This data shows there is a direct correlation between the bill and the losses that each of the two sides involved will sustain to enforce it. And in a way, it represents the death knell for the theory of a “new world order,” which has been the basis of many political calculations and economic exchanges on the world stage.

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