Iran’s Central Bank to supply tour firms with foreign exchange

Financial Tribune- Following complaints about the exclusion of travel services from the list of priorities for foreign exchange allocation, the Central Bank of Iran has pledged in a verbal announcement that tour operators will be provided with foreign currency through drafts.

According to Hormatollah Rafiei, head of the Travel Agents Guild Association, CBI forex deputy Ahmad Araqchi has said travel agents that conduct foreign exchange transactions will have no problem in obtaining their required currency and a credit line has even been set up for the purpose.

“However, like other sectors in the list of priorities, these businesses need to have a letter of approval from their authority, i.e. Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization,” Rafiei quoted Araqchi as saying in a talk to ISNA.

The official added that no official directive regarding the case has been issued yet, but the CBI has reportedly admitted that there are forex challenges in the tourism sector and has come to agreement with the ICHHTO to address the problem.

After the introduction of the new forex strategy, 11 sets of regulations were issued by the CBI to outline the details of the policy. One of the guidelines determined 33 groups as eligible to receive foreign currency, including outbound tourists and select companies operating hajj and pilgrimage tours.

However, conducting tours to other international destinations was surprisingly left out, raising widespread criticism by tour operators who found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy.

Rafiei was among the outspoken critics who expressed disapproval of the discrimination between operators of pilgrimage and tours to other foreign destinations.

Letters were written to the CBI and ICHHTO chiefs by the private sector demanding solutions.

Ali Asghar Mounesan, head of ICHHTO, told the media later that First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri had tasked the CBI to hold special meetings with ICHHTO officials to discuss the matter.

As a result of about two weeks of negotiations, the CBI made the unofficial pledge assuring travel agencies that they will not face trouble in their foreign exchange transactions.

Inbound Travelers’ Woes

The new forex policies under which foreign exchange shops have been banned from providing services to the general public had also caused trouble for foreign travelers to Iran who needed rials on their trips. To address the issue, the CBI granted permission to all banks to buy the currency of foreign tourists as well as transit drivers, investors and bank and political representatives at the rate of the day and within the framework of forex regulations.