People, Travel

TSA Takes Center Stage

TSA Takes Center StageTSA Takes Center Stage

The role and significance of reliable data, facts and figures in developing tourism and ways to improve Iran’s data gathering methods was debated and discussed during a three-day workshop (Oct. 31-Nov. 2) in Tehran, the local media reported.

The workshop was attended by representatives of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Statistical Center of Iran, Central Bank of Iran and NAJA, the country’s law enforcement forces.

A key topic was the introduction of Tourism Satellite Accounts, a standard statistical framework and the main tool for the economic measurement of tourism, IRNA reported.

UNWTO representatives, who are certified TSA trainers, gave instructions on how to calculate TSA.

TSA adopts a System of National Accounts, which records the acquisition of goods and services by visitors while on a tourism trip. This enables generation of tourism economic data, such as the industry’s contribution to GDP, which is comparable with other economic statistics.

This was the first time since the publication of a tourism report by the Majlis Research Center in May that TSA and its role in tourism found their proper place at an important workshop held to probe ways to expand the nascent tourism industry.

Christine Brew, UNWTO coordinator for Asia-Pacific, said the current workshop “is a part of the UNWTO commitments to provide technical support for its members, among whom Iran is an active state with close ties to the organization.”

In the workshop, Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy at ICHHTO, said, “TSA helps the authorities to accurately assess the performance of the industry, adopt more effective policies and make realistic plans.”

He said the organization reached an agreement with the UN body last year for consultancy and specialized training.

“We also signed a deal with SCI to gain access to relevant tourism statistics,” Movahed said.

 No Idea of Expenses

Zohreh Chitsaz, head of the SCI office for Social and Cultural Statistics, said, “During 2008-09, we had data on trips during all seasons, but from 2011 until March 2015 we only recorded figures for spring and summer journeys,” Mehr News Agency reported. It was not clear why the top statistical organization had decided to change course on such an important subject.

The number of foreigners is recorded by police when they enter the country, she said, but the problem is there are no accounts of, and ways to ascertain, how much visitors’ spend during their stay in Iran, which is “definitely required in the TSA measuring system.”

She added that her office has 20 tourism-related projects in progress and is ready to collaborate with other organizations to develop tourism statistics.  

Iranian experts single out the lack of statistical knowledge — due to poor, and at times, contradicting data — as the main reason undermining tourism plans and the future course of action.

Iran has not submitted inbound tourism figures to the UNWTO since 2004, and worse, it has failed to disclose where the foreign tourists come from since 1995.

In a report published earlier this year by the World Tourism and Travel Council, it was pointed out that the lack of TSA in countries like Iran forces the council to produce estimates instead of precise figures in their reports. It also hinders the process of precise up-to-date data gathering; something that is vital to knowing the setbacks/problem areas and preparing for a robust and profitable tourism industry.