People, Travel

Ecotourism Developing Slowly

A village off Khalkhal-Asalem Road in northwestern IranA village off Khalkhal-Asalem Road in northwestern Iran

Ecotourism has been one of the main focuses of the present administration and since the launch of this initiative in 2013, the number of natural tourist sites in Iran has grown from only 23 to over 320 at present, said the tourism deputy at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

Morteza Rahmani Movahed added that ecotourism has been streamlined and its regulations updated to ensure its development while protecting natural sites, IRNA reported.

Local media outlets and officials frequently claim that Iran ranks fifth in the world in terms of ecotourism potential, without citing an authoritative source. Nevertheless, the country’s potential for ecotourism is definitely there and it has been neglected by both the authorities and travel agencies over the years.

Experts believe that a big part of the problem is the lack of knowledge and awareness of tour organizers and travelers about the concept of ecotourism and its destinations.

Movahed added that thanks to the improvement of Iran’s international ties following the landmark nuclear deal, the country is attracting more tourists and investors.

“Tourism is the interaction between nations, which is only achievable when countries have normal and favorable relations,” he said.

According to Mohammad Ali Fayyazi, the head of National Ecotourism Committee, the government is planning to increase the number of eco-lodges in Iran to 2,000 by the end of the sixth five-year economic development plan (2016-21).

“The lodging facilities will be located in 500 villages across the country,” he said.

 “About 274 eco-lodges have been built throughout the country since the beginning of 2016.”

An eco-lodge is a type of tourist accommodation designed to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated.

Earlier this year, the Department of Environment approved regulations pertaining to investment in ecotourism, amid concerns that tours of natural sites could take a toll on the environment.

The DOE had been reluctant to approve the regulations, with Fayyazi regularly calling on environmental officials to reject them. It is unclear what compelled the DOE to approve the policies.


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