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Concerns Over New Tourism Chief's Priorities

Ecolodges and hotels are both necessary to cater to different tastes.Ecolodges and hotels are both necessary to cater to different tastes.

The new head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has reportedly shifted focus onto cultural heritage and handicrafts, which has raised worries among some groups that tourism might not receive the attention it needs.  

However, the tourism deputy of the organization maintains that any progress in the fields of cultural heritage and handicrafts will contribute to the nascent tourism industry.

President Hassan Rouhani appointed Zahra Ahmadipour to helm the organization on November 1, following the appointment of her predecessor, Masoud Soltanifar, as the new Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs in late October.

"The development of villages and their various rituals and crafts has always been a major policy of the organization as it can help boost rural tourism," said Morteza Rahmani Movahed, Mehr News Agency reported.  He added that ICHHTO has been working toward empowering rural settlements to help them become sought-after destinations by improving their lodging infrastructure, particularly ecolodges.

Asked whether hotels or eco-lodges will be given top priority by the ICHHTO, the official said the two services are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

"Variety is a central principle of tourism and services must cater to all tastes," Movahed said, adding that ecolodges and hotels complement each other and they are both needed.

Since 2013, the number of ecolodges throughout the country has increased tenfold to 320. An ecolodge is a type of accommodation designed to have as little impact as possible on the environment. Ecolodges abide by the principles of sustainable development, a concept that has been receiving a lot of attention by major organizations all over the world, including the United Nations.

Turkmen Ecolodge in Golestan National Park and Gileboom in Qasemabad Sofla, a county in the northern province of Gilan, are the most famous ecolodges in Iran.

Iranian ecolodges were nominated for the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s prestigious Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism held on January 20 in Madrid, Spain, a sign that Iran is moving in the right direction.

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