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Iran has 536 ecolodges.
People, Travel

Ecolodges Need Monitoring

Because of the rapid development of ecolodges in Iran over the past few years, some have reportedly failed to adhere to the official guidelines.  
Ecolodges are accommodations built in the heart of nature and designed to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated. These places 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 UN.
The administration of President Hassan Rouhani has given special attention to such travel services as a means of creating jobs for the locals, reviving rural areas and helping develop the local economy, Mehr News Agency reported.
However, Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has come under criticism for licensing properties that fail to meet the organization's guidelines on ecolodges, particularly the architectural criteria.
Vernacular architecture is one of the main criteria for an ecolodge. Otherwise, the accommodation will serve as any ordinary bed and breakfast entity.
Mohammad Ali Fayyazi, director of Iran's National Ecotourism Committee, said the organization's provincial offices are responsible for any possible violation.
"In case of a violation, ICHHTO's Tourism Department will question the provincial office and might send experts from the headquarters (in Tehran) to assess the ecolodge," he said.
"Licensed ecolodges found to be in violation of guidelines will either lose their permit or begin operating as a bed and breakfast outfit without promoting themselves as ecolodges."
Fayyazi called on the public to report any violation to ICHHTO's central office for investigation.
The official stressed that the problem is also rooted in the lack of training for ecolodge owners and local officials.
"We have organized four rounds of training for ecotourism experts and each province has one expert to monitor its services. But many of these experts are quickly given other positions," he said.
He said his office has urged Zahra Ahmadipour, the head of ICHHTO, to ensure trained personnel remain in their post until a suitable replacement is found.
Fayyazi said the organization has done a poor job of facilitating online booking for ecolodges.
"But the IT team is working on it now and they've compiled data on 300 ecolodges across Iran, which will be uploaded on ICHHTO's website along with photos," he said.
There are 536 ecolodges in Iran, showing a sharp increase since 2013 when there were only 30 properties. Isfahan Province has the highest number of ecolodges with 130, whereas the provinces of Qom, West Azarbaijan and Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad are at the bottom of the list with only one each.

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