People, Travel

Northern Marine Tourism Neglected

Northern Marine Tourism NeglectedNorthern Marine Tourism Neglected

Although turning Caspian Sea into a marine tourism hub in northern Iran has been a major topic of discussion since a long time, no step has yet been taken by officials to realize that goal, leaving the private sector in limbo about whether or not to invest in the sector.

Masoud Polmeh, chairman of Shipping Association of Iran, is of the opinion that there are no bright prospects about launching marine routes in the northern sea, as long as the conditions remain unchanged.  

Pointing to the different concept of marine travel in Iran, the official said most sea trips in the country take little time and cruise ships travel only a short distance from the shore due to lack of tourism facilities and resorts in coastal locations, Donyaye Safar reported.

“To pave the way for marine travel, this common notion has to be dispelled, but it does not seem attainable in the short run,” he said.

“The private sector is not likely to get involved, given the high costs of vessel maintenance in proportion to the potential profit.”

Polmeh noted that it is not possible to travel across the Caspian Sea throughout the year due to climatic conditions, as ships cannot set sail on very cold days or when the sea is stormy.

“It is not economically justifiable for a private investor to spend heavily to run short sea trips for only a few months a year,” he said.

However, Fazel Dashtizadeh, the director of Maritime Transport Cooperatives Union, is positive about the private sectors’ involvement, provided the government extends adequate support.

“Demands for sea travel are very likely to grow, if the prerequisites (such as basic facilities) are met,” Dashtizadeh said, adding that investors will show interest in the business when they are certain about its profitability.

  Growing Demand

Statistics published by the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development show that the number of marine travelers has been rising in the past few years.

Over 7.2 million sea passengers used the county’s ports in the first four months of the current Iranian year (started March 20), which shows a 1.6% increase compared with the same period of last year.

Iran’s southern borders are responsible for the bulk of that figure; a testament to the fact that proper planning and extensive investment in the sector can pay off.

The launch of a marine route between Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf and Oman is an example of effective measures taken by officials to develop marine tourism in the south. However, experts believe that the potential of southern seas has not yet been fully exploited.

Uncertainty about the future of marine travel across the Caspian Sea to neighboring countries has left both policymakers and investors wondering whether the goal is achievable or hopes must be placed only on the Persian Gulf.