People, Travel

Iran Has Potential to Become Halal Tourist Hub

Iran Has Potential to Become Halal Tourist Hub
Iran Has Potential to Become Halal Tourist Hub

Halal tourism is considered a new branch of the tourism industry by the World Tourism Organization that provides Muslims with special recreational and touristic programs.

It is geared towards Muslims who would like products and services that will help them observe their religious rites while on vacation; these include services such as restaurants with a halal menu and an alcohol-free environment.  Other services include segregated, women-only and men-only) swimming pools, prayer rooms, and where prayer times are announced on a regular basis, according to IRNA.

In addition to products and services, most Muslim tourists like to visit religious sites during their vacation, and Iran with its wealth of religious sites and abundance of places for pilgrimage is extremely well placed to flourish as a halal tourism hub.

In order to further develop in this direction, Iran can look to Malaysia and Turkey, two Muslim countries who are forerunners in Halal tourism.

Three decades ago, Turkey was an underdeveloped country hit by a bankrupt economy and suffered from bribery and administrative corruption.

Having no oil or gas resources, Ankara made bold decisions around privatization of many sectors and the creation of a solid foundation for tourism, benefiting from its rich resources of cultural and religious Islamic heritage. Today Turkey earns more than $36 billion from its tourism industry; among the highest in the world.

Islamic Iran is also a country rich in Islamic and historic cultural heritage, which can be transformed into a lucrative tourist hub, with well thought out and administered tourism-development plans.

For the time being however, Tehran has paid little attention to the tourism industry and its potential income, partly because the country is rich in oil and gas resources.

Fortunately, a new, positive trend in tourism has started since about 14 years ago, although foreign diplomacy is a big determinant in the flourishing of this industry.

President Hassan Rouhani’s government is heralding the tide of change, which has palpably revived the tourism to such an extent that the Western media is increasingly reporting on the current boom in the industry.  Media sources are picking up that the easing of political tensions in relation to the international community is the current government’s approach in attracting tourists as well as foreign investments.

The latest statistics by the WTO indicate that the number of foreign tourists who visited Iran in 2013 was 24 percent more than that in the previous year. The corresponding figure in 2014 is definitely higher, though no statistics have been released so far.

 Meager Share

Despite much promise and the sharp growth, Iranian tourism’s contribution remains a trivial 2.2 percent of the country’s gross national product (GDP). WTO is hoping that this positive trend continues to increase by 5.7 percent year on year until 2024.

Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai, who recently traveled to Iran said that Iran is “a fantastically rich country, when it comes to cultural heritage, one of the richest civilizations mankind has ever seen.”

He also noted that Iranians faced certain challenges, especially in rebuilding their image and how they appeal to others, and welcomed moves to introduce visas on arrival for 27 countries. These are issues that are fortunately well taken care of by the relevant authorities of the present administration.

Iran is seen as having rich potential in many areas including historical, therapeutic, culinary, and sports to mention a few. The only thing needed is scrupulous planning, meticulously executed by the related authorities.

Meanwhile, earnings from the tourism sector in the next Iranian year’s (starts March 21) budget is estimated to be 4,800 billion rials, which is very small compared to the overall country’s budget of 2,224,000 billion rials. A primary element that can be a determinant in achieving the targets of the ‘resistance economy’ and reducing dependence on oil income is proper utilization of the tourism industry.

Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism organization (ICHHTO), Masoud Soltani has said Iran is planning to promote Halal tourism in earnest.

He underlined many principles of Halal tourism, including serving halal meat in airplanes, hotels and restaurants, and that alcohol prohibition already observed in Iran. He believes if Iran provides more sports and entertainment facilities for Muslim women, then Iran would be an ideal touristic destination for Muslims from all over the world.

Presently, Iran has all the chances to make a foray into the tourism industry with its extraordinary potential in the religious, therapeutic, historical and environment attractions.

The peace and stability in Iran doubles the country’s potential to become an outstanding Halal touristic hub while it can also absorb tourists of other regional Islamic countries that are currently in turmoil.