People, Travel

ICHHTO Chief: Less Than 5% of Tourism Potential Tapped

Officials say Iranian attractions have been poorly promoted. Officials say Iranian attractions have been poorly promoted.

Iran uses less that 5% of its tourism potential, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said.

Zahra Ahmadipour, who also doubles as a vice president, added that one of the main problems that has slowed growth is the negative balance between inbound and outbound tourism, with just over 5.5 million people coming to Iran and more than 9.5 million traveling abroad.

Consequently, more foreign exchange leaves Iran than the amount flowing in.

According to tourism officials, Iran earned $8 billion through inbound tourists’ expenditure last year. This is while assuming every Iranian who traveled abroad last year spent $100, that’s around $10 billion in much-needed foreign currency.

“Iran is a historically rich country, abundant with heritage sites and ancient structures. However, unfortunately, when people are asked about their favorite places to visit, they can only name a handful,” Ahmadipour was quoted as saying by CHTN.

The official said Iranian attractions have been poorly promoted and claimed that tour guides are more adept at introducing foreign sites.

“Today, tour guides can provide detailed descriptions of foreign historical, cultural and popular sites but they cannot properly introduce a single Iranian site,” she said.

Recalling the potential of tourism in creating jobs, Ahmadipour said developing the sector is key to putting more people to work.

The industry generated 559,000 jobs directly in 2016 in Iran (2.2% of total employment) and this is forecast to grow by 4.9% in 2017, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

This includes employment by hotels, travel agencies, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.

Iran’s declared goal is to attract 20 million tourists every year by 2025, generating around $25-30 billion in revenues. However, achieving that target in eight years is not going to be easy.

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