People, Travel

Tourism Growth Vital to Boosting Economy

Tourism Growth Vital to Boosting EconomyTourism Growth Vital to Boosting Economy

Developing domestic tourism is essential to boosting the economy, and restoring historical structures is a big step in the right direction, according to a Majlis representative.

“There are a number of Iranians who frequently visit touristic cities in neighboring countries, such as Antalya and Istanbul in Turkey, and know those places like the back of their hand. Yet, most of them have never been to a historical city in Iran,” Masoud Pezeshkian, first deputy speaker of the Majlis, was quoted as saying by Donyaye Safar.

“Foreign currency, amounting to billions of dollars, is taken out of Iran while with proper planning they could be spent here in the country,” he added.

According to a study by Majlis Research Center last year, Iran’s inbound tourism generated barely $1.1 billion in 2013 whereas Iranian holidaymakers spent $7.5 billion abroad in that year.

Considering the various historical, natural and cultural sites in Iran, tourism can and should play a major role in generating income and employment. Even though this has been emphasized repeatedly in the past decade, the industry has not played an effective role in the country’s economy.

The direct contribution of tourism to Iran’s GDP in 2015 was a meager 2.5% (a rise of 0.2% compared to 2014), according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Pezeshkian warned against ignoring Iran’s tourism potential, because the country would lose what could be one of its largest sources of income.

He said privatization of cultural heritage and historical places for the purpose of restoration and use could help bring the tourism industry, and by extension the economy, out of the quagmire.

Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization has begun ceding historical sites to private owners, and has targeted transferring more than 100 historical houses by the end of the current Iranian year (ends March 20, 2017).

Pezeshkian noted that there would be definitely lots of problems throughout the process, for there are a lot of factors at play that must be considered, “something that is beyond the power of the Majlis”.

However, in its role as “a facilitator”, the Majlis is open to collaboration and suggestions by ICHHTO to speed up the privatization of historical sites, he added.