People, Travel

Tourism Teacher Critical of Subsidized Travel Scheme

Tourism Teacher Critical of Subsidized Travel SchemeTourism Teacher Critical of Subsidized Travel Scheme

Iran’s tourism chief Masoud Soltanifar announced last week plans to subsidize travel to under-the-radar destinations in a bid to spread travel inside the country.

While the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization did not reveal the details of the scheme, he said his organization will cover a third of the cost of trips to lesser-known destinations.

On Monday, Soltanifar’s deputy Morteza Rahmani Movahed shed some light on the plan, which is expected to go into effect in the fall.

“It’s not a cash subsidy; people aren’t going to get paid,” he told ISNA. “Instead, we’re going to subsidize tours offered by select travel agencies.”

The official said the organization is preparing a list of tour operators interested in participating in the scheme, and travel agencies all over the country can take part.

However, some have questioned the efficacy of the plan, arguing that funds can and should  be spent differently to boost tourism.

Speaking to the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad, Ali Shadlou, director of a Tehran-based tourism school, said officials must ensure this is the best available plan to develop tourism and encourage travel to remote locations.

“The plan has a number of issues, the most important of which is underdeveloped infrastructure in far-flung destinations,” he said.

Shadlou has a point: Iran’s top holiday destinations, including Isfahan, Shiraz, Kish and Qeshm, all suffer from a lack of sufficient tourism facilities, such as hotels. If popular destinations cannot keep pace with the growing domestic tourism market, there is no doubt that isolated destinations will have a more difficult task coping with an influx of tourists.

The plan might encourage many to travel to distant locations, but they are unlikely to enjoy the trip given the severe chronic lack of infrastructure in those places.

Shadlou believes that ICHHTO should use funds allocated to the scheme to help develop infrastructure and offer loans to investors to finance projects. By developing infrastructure people’s travel options will also grow as there will be more destinations that can cater to their needs.

“This will help reduce the cost of travel,” he said, referring to the inevitable competition between destinations to get a bigger share of the tourism pie.