TEHRAN. (Iranart) - S ince the start of current fiscal year in March, over 100 travel agencies have had their licenses suspended, cancelled, or were forced to close.
Ali Rafiee, deputy for tourism at the provincial office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), said, “since the beginning of this calendar year (March 21), 700 complaints against Tehran travel agencies have been received by the Tehran office of the ICHHTO.”
He went on to say that out of 700 cases, 640 were investigated. Twenty-one travel agencies had their license cancelled, 50 licenses were suspended, 41 offices were sealed, 14 guarantees revoked and the rest were ordered to close.
“Several travel agencies that despite ultimatums issued by authorities failed to close were later forced to shut down,” Rafiee said, ISNA reported.
Most complaints were related to the failure of the tour and travel agencies to provide the promised services and fulfill terms of the agreement with clients.
He noted that the ICHHTO remains committed to closely monitor the travel agencies. “There are over 1,900 travel agencies in Tehran. Given the lack of resources it is not possible to conduct daily monitoring of all the agencies,” the news agency quoted him as saying.
He rejected claims from some quarters that the ICHHTO was slack and not taking the people’s complaints seriously enough. “We investigate the complaints thoroughly and take legal action if and when necessary. Apparently there are a few exceptions. Cases in which foreign tour/travel agents are involved are totally different. In those cases we cannot take legal action because it is beyond our jurisdiction”.
Lack of Signed Agreements
Regarding the problems of local travel agents with foreign tour companies, the official said, “time and again Iranian tour operators have been warned to first sign valid contracts with the well-known foreign firms. Failing to do so often results in problems we are unable to resolve because of the simple fact that the companies are based overseas.”
Without providing details, the ICHHTO official referred to the intervention of the state organization “in legally following up issues related to the non-payment of debts by tour companies in Iran to their foreign partners that has created difficulties for Iranian travelers in foreign lands.”
In something rarely officially heard in the past, Rafiee said one of the problems is the “lack of contract signed between Iranian travelers and the travel agent selling the package tours.”
He said the people have been regularly urged to have a valid and signed contract with the tour agent to avoid problems. It is rather regrettable, he noted, that most travelers and tourists “ignore” this recommendation before embarking on the journey only to encounter problems later and “expect us to help them.”
Rafiee referred to a recent incident in which one Iranian tourist “was attacked by an elephant in Thailand and he had complained against our organization.”