People, Travel

‘Exemplary’ Tourist Cities under Scrutiny

‘Exemplary’ Tourist Cities under Scrutiny‘Exemplary’ Tourist Cities under Scrutiny

Exemplary tourist cities and villages are to be reassessed during the 2nd meeting of the mayors, deputy of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Saeed Shirkavand, has announced. He elucidated on the haphazard state of such cities and believes that their potentials have not been encouraged, but rather, they have been thwarted.

Eleven cities and two counties are earmarked for selection as exemplary tourist destinations. Research has been carried out and the enactment is underway. Feasibility studies have been conducted and new tourist attractions consistent with the region will be set up in certain selected areas, the official said.  

However, the basis and methodology for choosing exemplary tourist destinations still remains.

Tourism professor, Rahim Yaghoubzadeh, says the mere fact that an area possesses distinguishing cultural features, traditions, or natural resources is not sufficient to determine its eligibility.

The attributes and potentials of regions must be closely studied before regions are nominated. Accessibility and available facilities are essential factors. Also, if any new attractions are added to the selected regions they must be in harmony with their natural surroundings.

In an interview with the Persian daily, Forsat Emruz, head of The House of Eternal Culture (a cultural NGO in Fars Province) Amin Tabataba’i said most of the decisions regarding exemplary tourist cities ratified during the previous government appear not to have been adequately scrutinized and have therefore now been suspended.

The selection process appears to have been largely haphazard, many having hastily taken place during official provincial visits with approved plan simply communicated over the phone. The budget allocations were random, varying from areas to area, ranging from area with agreeable weather and pleasant natural environments to arid lands near parched remains of lakes.

Imprudent decisions have obviously taken their toll on the selected regions. After being selected as an exemplary tourist attraction, Qalat village, Fars Province, once a pristine district with its exclusive culture, architecture, and natural environment has now transmuted into a small town identical to every other cookie-cutter prototype. The same has happened in Sareyn, Ardabil Province, and several other cities which were chosen as exemplary tourist attractions.    

Although certain areas were at times completely devoid of attractions, prospective local parliament candidates would put a lot of effort to ratify plans in order to strengthen their own political agenda.

The approved plans remain at large. Locals, who assume that the decisions were geared to boost tourism, rightfully see themselves entitled to the promised benefits. The truth of the matter, however, is that there were no attractions there to begin with.

It appears as though this program was turned into a “diplomatic playground”. As long as feasibility studies are not carried out before selecting the areas and as long as organizations continue to act independently, the outlook remains grim.

There has been the assumption that selections have been made based on a sound set of standards. In fact, no official standards charts have been released thus far. If such charts were to be provided, affiliated organizations could study the feedbacks and improve the selection process.