Iran General NewsIran is offering bounty to agents who can entice...

Iran is offering bounty to agents who can entice Western tourists

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New York Times: Iran is offering money to travel agents who can lure certain types of tourists to Iran, and the rate is double for bringing European and American travelers. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: November 2, 2006

TEHRAN, Nov. 1 — Iran is offering money to travel agents who can lure certain types of tourists to Iran, and the rate is double for bringing European and American travelers.

“Iran’s Tourism Department will pay $20 for every American or European tourist that travel agents can bring,” Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, deputy director of the Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organization, said Tuesday in a statement reported by the news agency IRNA. The statement also specified a $10 payment for luring Asian tourists.

Iran has been trying to expand its tourism industry, in particular to attract more Westerners. Officials have repeatedly said that despite hostile relations with the United States government, Americans visiting the country should be treated with respect.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that he was against proposed legislation to require American travelers to be fingerprinted at the airport. Lawmakers said they were responding to similar requirements imposed by the United States on some Iranian travelers.

“We do not have a problem with American people,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “We oppose only the U.S. government’s bullying and arrogance.”

Relations between the countries have not thawed since they severed diplomatic ties in 1979 after revolutionaries seized the American Embassy in Tehran.

But now the United States is pressing the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear program, which the United States contends is intended to develop nuclear arms.

Last month Iran offered to open its nuclear sites to foreign visitors as another incentive for visitors. Esfandiar Rahim-Masahai, head of the Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organization, said that Mr. Ahmadinejad had ordered the move and that, in part, it was aimed at convincing the world the program was peaceful.

The effort to attract more foreign tourists has failed so far.

An alcohol ban and a law requiring women to cover their hair have been powerful hindrances. Iran also is lacking in hotels and tourist facilities because of its isolation since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Most tourists are Shiite Muslim pilgrims from the region who travel to religious sites.

Mr. Malekzadeh said Monday that tourists could also apply for visas on the Internet to ease the process.

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