Spreading Out Smartly

Spreading Out Smartly Spreading Out Smartly

Several international events are held in spring due to Iran’s pleasant weather, but in recent years the concentration of these events has become a problem for tourists who are unable to find lodging.

The sheer volume of international conferences in the season combined with a severe lack of accommodation has forced tourists and conferees to wrestle for space. Tourism professionals have repeatedly pleaded to officials and organizers to spread out international events throughout the year instead of holding them all during the high season. However, as things stand now, their appeals have had no effect.

The Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reports that Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization is preparing a draft program for what is known by industry insiders as MICE travel, which is an acronym for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. It refers to a specialized niche of group tourism dedicated to planning, booking and facilitating conferences, seminars and other events.

“It is imperative to make a good impression on people who attend the international gatherings,” Ali Baqer Nemati Zargaran, director of the Promotion and Marketing Office at the ICHHTO, told the newspaper.

He argues that those who attend international events tend to be high spending, influential people, “which means that they bring foreign currency into the country and if they enjoy their stay here, they will inevitably talk about their experience when they go back home, which helps promote Iran.”

  Profitable Sector

MICE tourism can contribute significantly to the development of a tourist destination. If properly executed, it can lead to the enhancement of the tourism economy, especially in the low season, by holding events across the calendar year.

Some also argue that it can lead to increased tourism expenditure as MICE travelers generally spend more money than leisure tourists and in less time. Furthermore, MICE travelers can extend their stay after the event and return with their family or friends.

Zargaran says the sector can even be more profitable than cultural and historical tourism.

“There are many countries that have tapped into the potential of MICE tourism. Some don’t even have many historical sites to boast about, yet by creatively organizing an event they generate ten times the money we make from Persepolis,” he said.

Experts at the ICHHTO are ironing out the details of the scheme, which involves the establishment of a new office in the organization.

“If the government signs off on the scheme, all international events have to be reviewed and approved by the ICHHTO (to ensure there are no scheduling conflicts and that the events are spread across the year),” Zargaran said.

Quality hotels in cities such as Shiraz and Isfahan have been booked for a year and even hostels are fully booked in major cities such as Tehran during the Iranian month of Ordibehesht (April 20 – May 20), thanks to the congestion of international confabs and seminars on everything from flowers to high-tech.

It seems that hoteliers and tour operators have finally managed to get through to the country’s tourism officials to address the recurring problem. Even though the ICHHTO, as the foremost authority on tourism in Iran, seems to have devised a way to help alleviate the problem, stakeholders will have to wait and see the efficacy of their plan of action if and when it goes into effect.