People, Travel

Incomings Outnumber Outgoings

Incomings Outnumber Outgoings
Incomings Outnumber Outgoings

Incoming tourists outnumbered outgoing tourists in summer for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, reported IRNA.

According to the country’s immigration police, a total of 1.49 million people arrived in the country during last summer, while 1.41 million traveled out. There was a 200% increase in the number of European travelers coming with tour packages over the first six months of 1392 (starting 21 March 2013) as compared to the same period last year, said Masoud Soltanifar, head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) on November 10.

There was 24.4% growth in the arrival of foreign tourists in 2013 from the previous year.  “Each year, UNWTO announces the top 50 tourist destinations of the world. In 2013, Iran with 4.7 million foreign tourists, improved to 48th on the list. This is the first time after the Islamic Revolution that we have made it to the top 50.” Soltanifar said.

He highlighted the success in attracting tourists, and added that nearly $6.5 billion income of the last Iranian calendar year (ended March 20, 2014) came from foreign tourism.

Pointing to the high level of security for tourists, he said, “Despite being situated in a very turbulent region, Iran ranked 17th in the world with respect to security for tourists, in the last UNWTO assessment in 2012. The acclaim the country has received from European train travelers is a testament to this fact.”

Iran intends to push forward its tourism agenda even further, and has plans to expand electronic visas by the end of the year. Currently two-week airport visas are available for nationals from 190 countries.

The official said, with over one million sites of historical significance we are extremely well placed for heritage tourism. “This being said, to date, only 140,000 sites have been fully identified and explored, out of which 31,000 have been registered on the national heritage list.  Therefore, much work is to be done in the spheres of excavation, preservation, and rehabilitation of historical sites,” Soltanifar added.  

The official continued “we have no other choice but to utilize private sector capital in retaining our historical sites”, adding that “the government’s budget is only $187,000 for such projects; sufficient to preserve 5% of the sites.  If we set out to restore the current 31,000 sites over a 10-year period, we will require $5.6 million budget each year.”

Soltanifar also mentioned the potential in handicrafts, as one of the three world leading countries in this sector. However, he said, “Finding markets for our local products has become a challenge at present,” pointing to plans to boost sales; such as upholding permanent and temporary markets, and more representation in the international expos.

There are 2 million people working in the handicraft sector, which generated $800 million in exports last year.