The View from Iran
Having a whole host of lovely guides around the world, we've been reaching out to check in and see how they've been faring during the pandemic. With every country responding differently, they've been sharing their view from the ground, how they've kept busy during this time and we find out what their hopes are for a return to travel. Kicking it off is our interview with our wonderful guide Hanieh from Iran.
The pandemic seems to have affected some countries in more severe ways than others, how has it been in Iran?
To be honest, the situation is not good due to vaccination matters in our country. Our government decided to produce its own vaccine which caused a big delay and many people got infected. Now we are in the 5th wave, with about 500 deaths every single day. Although it seems that has caused the government to change their minds and they've decided to import vaccines!
Outside the lack of tourists, how has Covid had a significant impact on your daily life?
We cannot meet our loved ones and that is very difficult. Two years is a long time to be far from the ones you used to visit at least once a week. Besides that, the economy has faced a serious problem because the government can not control inflation so the prices have been tripled (at least) in most cases.
How have you stayed positive during this time? Have you taken up any new hobbies or projects?
As I am an international trainer of WFTGA (World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations), I’ve kept myself active in some webinars and seminars for different countries; one was for tourism students of the Philippines, to keep them motivated and encourage them to update their knowledge for a better future. Another one was for the first Webinar of WFTGA in which I talked about bringing the tradition of storytelling into the new style of virtual tour guiding. Also, I had one virtual tour for Philipinos and some real-time virtual tours for Americans. I started to learn Spanish too. But doing all of this doesn’t stop me from missing meeting people face to face.
What do you miss most about welcoming travellers to your country?
Tourism is not just giving information. It is about feeling each other's culture from both sides. It is proving the equality of all humans. I really miss this part of guiding tours - meeting new friends and discovering the similarities between our cultures... and of course big hugs at the end of each tour when you are happy to have found new friends, even though we are sad to say goodbye.
Have you been vaccinated? Has most of your community?
I haven't been vaccinated yet. In Iran, the +50s and vulnerable ones have been vaccinated up to now and I am 36. It has been announced that all people here will be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
How do you see the pandemic changing the way you lead tours?
At least for a year, if tours do start to go ahead again, people cannot remove their masks or trust the situation easily. It will take time to arrange big groups again and until then, perhaps the groups will be more families or close friends (about 3-5 people).
Where or who are you most excited to see again on your tours once things return to normal?
Whoever, anyone, I don’t mind. After 2 years, I still dream of tours all the time. I decided to become a tourist guide to spread love like rain to those who are thirsty for culture and peace... the rain never asks who will get wet.
Is there anything you’d like to see foreign travellers do when they return – wear masks, not shake hands, stay outside of your community?
When the borders are open, it means that the situation is mostly safe. Yet, I would prefer tourists to be a little bit more conscious about keeping their distance from people. By this, I don't mean don't get inside the communities! Most of my tours do involve meeting local people (and I think that is one of the most important parts) who lost a lot during the pandemic and cannot be omitted from the tour. But wearing masks in crowded areas or avoiding uncovered foods or snacks can prevent any unwanted unfortunate events.
When do you predict that foreign travellers - in any significant numbers - will be able to start returning to your country?
I am not sure but I can say with confidence, it won't be before 2022.
If people want to help, are there any local projects that you're aware of - or perhaps work with - that you could recommend for people to support?
Thanks for this question! I know Jonny always tries to help local communities. I was guiding his parents in Iran and felt their kindness toward local people. These days, the situation is not good all across Iran and it is worse in the Sistan & Baluchestan provinces. They lack clean water and safe houses. It causes different sicknesses in this area which needs serious attention.