People, Travel

Expectations From Prospective Tourism Chief

Expectations From Prospective Tourism ChiefExpectations From Prospective Tourism Chief

Following the resignation of Sports and Youth Minister Mahmoud Goudarzi last week, Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, was nominated by President Hassan Rouhani to take over the reins of the ministry.

If Soltanifar wins the parliament's approval, the government will have to scramble to find a new chief for ICHHTO. The government's four-year term ends next summer, IRNA reported.

The organization is one of a handful of bodies whose head (and supporting staff) has constantly changed in the past decade, much to the dismay of experts and players in the field, who say the lack of stability is not beneficial.

"We can't expect much from the next chief, since the current administration has only a few months left," says Reza Abazari, chairman of the board of the Tehran Tour and Travel Agencies’ Association.

"But to minimize damage, the new leader should keep the current people in place for the time being and avoid making a lot of changes."

There are, however, some who believe the organization's next boss should begin addressing the industry's shortcomings immediately.

"Building more hotels is great, but a key issue that's neglected is the severe lack of tour guides," says Abbas Pirmoradian, a former president of the Iran Tourist Guides Association.

"They've earmarked six trillion rials ($171 million) for hotel projects; if only they'd allocate 10 billion rials ($285,000) for training tour guides," he lamented.

He said there are plenty of instances of foreign tourists searching online for tour guides.

"If we don't address this problem soon, the sector will never take off," Pirmoradian warned.

Some, including Ebrahim Pourfaraj, the head of Iranian Tour Operators' Society, say the next chief should be a well-connected individual with knowledge of economics.

"Tourism is an economic activity, so you need a person who understands economics to steer the sector," says Pourfaraj. "Tourism, handicrafts and cultural heritage together form a product that must be sold."

The new chief should also be a skilled negotiator to be able to sit down and discuss matters with people from other sectors to get a good deal for the nascent tourism industry.

"A person who can lobby for the sector and secure better funding can help develop tourism," he said.

Pourfaraj warned against installing a politician at the helm of the organization, arguing that the private sector "will never see its requests met, which could discourage them from investing in the industry".


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