ITB 2018 Special Reporting
How apps can push past negative stereotypes.
Wednesday, 15th March 2017
Source : Angela Waters - Exclusive & Live from ITB 2017

If any country has a tough time attracting western tourists, it would be Iran; After a bloody revolution and more than a decade-long war with Iraq, tourism virtually stopped for roughly 15 years, but Rene du Terroil of Iran Doostan Tours says that smart phones and social media have been huge game changers, bringing in a 'tsunami of tourists' to a country where they cannot even use credit cards.

“Instead of having information filtered through a government agency or a tour book you have real people sharing their experiences of a country,” du Terroil said on stage at the ITB Conference in Berlin. “Instagram is the most popular app in Iran and it allows business to work directly with tourists.”

While some of the success is owed to international deals, more expedient visa processes and a return of airlines, du Terroil says social media users have been crucial in fighting “Iranophobia.”

One of the most crucial videos to change people’s perceptions was that of Singapore blogger Mandy Tay in Shiraz who traveled alone in the country.

“She showed herself as an Asian woman traveling alone through Iran, which broke a lot of stereotypes,” du Terroil said.

Media outlets have followed suit with CNN’s Anthony Bourdain featuring the country and BBC running a ‘Taste of Persia Program.’

This has contributed to the noticeable increase in visitors.

German visitors doubled from 2014-2015, with roughly 50,377 going to Iran. Even the number of American visitors grew by 50 percent during this time, despite tense relations between the two governments.

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