By Nikos Krinis
Athens-based Mideast Travel is claiming that Greece this year will see a significant reduction of tourist arrivals from Iran due to “acts and omissions” of the Greek Embassy in Tehran.
Mideast Travel has filed a lawsuit against the Greek government and is seeking significant compensation in damages, claiming that it has been under “unfair discrimination” by the Greek Embassy in Tehran, which is “issuing visas only to customers of selected Greek travel agencies”, while not welcoming visa applications of Mideast customers.
The company, which has been operating in Greece for over 30 years, specializing in the Middle East and the Arab Gulf countries, states that as of March onwards, some 10,000 bookings made through its network were cancelled as visas were not welcomed by the Greek Embassy in Tehran.
According to a source, the travel company’s relations with the Greek Ambassador became strained when the Greek embassy in Iran attempted to cancel (under claims of unfair competition) a B2B tourism workshop in Tehran, organized by Mideast last February, which aimed to strengthen relations between Iranian travel agencies and Greek hoteliers. The event, which was held under the auspices of the Tourism Ministry and the Greek National Tourism Organization, eventually proceeded as planned.
In its lawsuit, Mideast claims that the Greek Embassy in Tehran is deliberately “instructing” Iranian travelers and Iranian travel agencies to do business with specific Greek travel agents in order for visa applications to be approved. This has resulted to lost earnings for Mideast, as well as being “ostracized” from the Iranian market.
Meanwhile, Mideast also informs that several travel agencies in Iran have sent a collective letter to the Greek Foreign Ministry, complaining about the stance of the Greek embassy in Tehran, while some are even dropping Greece from their travel packages due to the confusing situation.
Moreover, Mideast Travel claims to have sent formal letters to the Tourism Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Presidential Mansion (Maximus Megaron) and Iran’s tourism ministry, notifying on the situation.
The opening towards the Iranian market is among the Tourism Ministry’s goals for boosting arrivals to the country as some 10 million Iranian tourists travel per year, of which 4 million go to Turkey, 3 million to other Arabic countries, 2 million to countries of the Middle East and 1 million to Europe. The Tourism Ministry aims to attract the majority of Iranian visitors that usually travel to Turkey, but now — due to the political situation in the neighboring country — are seeking new holiday destinations, especially in Europe.
Some 10,500 Iranian tourists are said to have vacationed in Greece last year.