People, Travel

Call for Publicizing Khuzestan Tourism Attractions

Call for Publicizing Khuzestan Tourism AttractionsCall for Publicizing Khuzestan Tourism Attractions

The oil-rich Khuzestan Province in southwestern Iran has been getting a bad rap due to years of struggle with dust storms and pollution, culminating in provincial capital Ahvaz being named the world’s most polluted city in 2011 by the World Health Organization.

The key province is known for its large oil and gas reserves, which have again attracted the interest of major players in the global energy industry, thanks to the nuclear agreement signed on July 14 in Vienna.

The hype over Khuzestan’s battle with dust storms and its value as a refining center seems to have completely overshadowed the tourism potential of a province that houses three world heritage sites:  Chogha Zanbil (inscribed in 1979), Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (2009) and Susa (2015).

Environmental problems plaguing Khuzestan have led to a sharp decline in tourist numbers in recent times, which put many tour guides out of business and by extension crippled the local economy.

“The media always talk about the sweltering temperatures and unbearable dust storms in Khuzestan … that’s negative publicity,” Susan Jahromi, head of Khuzestan Tour Guides’ Association, told Donyaye Safar.

She said a local philanthropist helped set up the association’s office in the province, but now the office is filled with unemployed tour guides “because there are no tourists”.

Jahromi rebuked travel agencies across the country for turning a blind eye toward Khuzestan’s tourism problem and said, “Most agencies advertise overseas destinations, such as Turkey and the UAE.

“It’s as though they’re oblivious to the untapped potential of Khuzestan. We have lush landscapes where the average temperature is 10 degrees Celsius, but nobody talks about that.”

She pointed to the northern regions of the province, including Shevi Waterfall and Izeh, and said the area is “perfect for those who want to escape the summer heat”.

  Blown Out of Proportion

 Jahromi admitted that the province’s struggle with pollution is real, but stressed that the severity of the problem has been exaggerated in the media.

“Khuzestan is not the only province grappling with pollution and dust storms. Yet, it’s the only one the media talk about,” the tour guide said, adding that so far this year (started March 2016), the air has been substantially cleaner.

Jahromi called on travel agencies to help publicize Khuzestan’s plethora of attractions and boost local tourism.

“Khuzestan needs to go back on travel brochures and cooperation of travel agencies is essential to making that happen,” she said.