Iran is an extremely welcoming country. The people are very friendly and hospitable. I have never seen or heard of any resentment towards Western travellers from the general Iranian public. The historical sites and architecture are stunning and it really should be top of any travellers’ bucket list.
Since our inception in 2004, Undiscovered Destinations has been operating small group tours in some of the most challenging and, at times, unstable regions of the world. With tensions escalating in the Middle East over the past few days, the team here have been busy reviewing our current and future tours.
In the Middle East, Undiscovered Destinations currently operate tours in Iran, Iraq, Oman, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as a number of countries in the Horn of Africa, including Somaliland.
Over the past 18 months we have seen a significant drop in demand for travel to Iran coinciding with the increase in American rhetoric. With this week’s events and the change of FCO advice, I expect the demand for travel to Iran will continue to diminish.
We have already been in touch with all of our clients booked to travel to Iran with a range of options. My thoughts are with the partners and suppliers that we have in the country and whose businesses are now facing a real threat unless there is a quick and peaceful resolution.
More of an unknown is how this will affect travel to the region as a whole. I was expecting a number of calls this week from clients booked to travel to Lebanon in the coming months, but we have not had any. Our clients are experienced travellers and it could be that they are not making any sudden decisions and are waiting to see how things unfold.
At the time of writing, there has been no change to the advice from the FCO. As a business we are continuing to operate our tours in Lebanon for the foreseeable future while also keeping a very close watch on developments. A close and trusting working relationship with the teams on the ground is vital in these situations.
Oman and Jordan are very stable and our tours there will remain unaffected as there are no reasons not to travel. That said, I would expect a lot less enquiries in the coming months as people are put off travelling to the Middle East as a whole, and we will be reviewing our capacity.
This is a real shame as it comes at a time when consumer confidence for adventure travel in the region had really started to improve since the Isis crisis.
Hopefully, the current tensions will be resolved soon and as peacefully as possible. Intrepid travellers will always want new and unique experiences and, with the Middle East being the perfect blend of culture, history and hospitality, it will not be long before they return.
Aled Evans is head of business development at Undiscovered Destinations.