Travel to Iran is expected to increase, according to a British travel firm, as international sanctions on the country could be lifted in early 2016. One traveller who plans to take full advantage of the new holiday destination is Buggsie Heath-Brown. She has already booked to go to on one of the first trips to Iran in September.
"Last year, Iran was open to travellers and so we decided to get on one of the first trips that we could to get out there; see the sights, meet the people before the big rush of the rest of the world," she said.
Iran hopes that Heath-Brown will be part of a new trend to bring more tourists to the country, as arrivals from the EU and North America only reached 90,000 during 2013, according to United Nations data. Iran wants to quadruple visitor numbers by 2025.
Jonny Bealby, founder and managing director of the adventure travel company, Wild Frontiers is optimistic about the new possibilities. Bookings to Iran with Wild Frontiers have soared since the nuclear deal was agreed in July.
"Two things have happened since the nuclear deal. First of all, the Foreign Office have changed their advice against travel to Iran, and that's made it much simpler for people to get insurance and that sort of thing, so the numbers have gone up again. We've had to put on three extra departures this year alone to cope with demand for the autumn season to Iran," Bealby said.
On 24 August, during his visit to Tehran, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced plans to lift sanctions which could result in billions of dollars of trade deals. Six world powers agreed in July to lift sanctions in return for Iran accepting long-term curbs on a nuclear programme that the West suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb. Tehran has always denied seeking nuclear arms.
Hammond raised the British flag on 23 August at a reopening ceremony of consular premises in the garden of Britain's opulent 19th century embassy in Tehran, a building which still bears the scars of a 2011 ransacking by protesters which put a freeze on diplomatic relations.
A delegation of senior business leaders flew with Hammond from Britain to Iran, including representatives from Royal Dutch Shell, energy and mining services company Amec Foster Wheeler and Scottish industrial engineering firm Weir Group.