Tourism Staging a Comeback

Tourism Staging a Comeback

Iran’s tourism came alive last year, starting March 21 2014, and, with a two-fold increase in foreign visitors, is still on its way to flourish even more, IRNA quoted the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Masud Soltanifar.
Speaking to reporters on his visit to Mazandaran Province’s Travel Services headquarters, Soltanifar said, “Iran’s tourism industry had been suffering a 6-year coma until last year, but this year there was a rise in the number of Western tourists.”

Airport visas, which are valid for two weeks, are now issued for citizens from 190 countries and are extendable for up to a month, he said.
Electronic visa system is going to be launched this year. Such visas will greatly contribute to attraction of foreign tourists, Soltanifar noted.
Some 950 touristic projects throughout the country, with $7 billion credit, are being implemented. However, considering the high potentials of Iran, the country’s tourism industry is far from optimal status, he said.

  Travel Service
This year, travel services for Nowruz holidays were planned three months in advance; fortunately, the services were more qualified than those of the previous year; 462 travel service headquarters were active during the holidays. Based on received complaints, some 60 lodging facilities and travel agencies were suspended.
Soltanifar called travel and tourism a green industry with quick return. Half of foreign tourists are Muslim, visiting the country for pilgrimage; they should thus be given special attention. “No Western tourist was reported to have violated moral etiquette and religious norms of the country.”

  Coin Count
Tourists from the Persian Gulf littoral countries spend about $4,000 per person during their stay in Iran; while visitors from Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan spend close to $2,000. On average, there are over 500,000 tourists from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Based on available statistics, $6b to $6.5b is earned from tourism per year. In 2013, global tourism revenue was a total of $1,250 billion, and Iran earned only 0.5% of the sum. “We should do our best to increase the figure to 3%,” Soltanifar said.
The major assets of the country’s tourism have been historical and cultural attractions, hubs of health and wellness, medical expertise, and holy shrines. All corners of the country are assets to this vast museum, he said.
Measures should be taken in maritime tourism, Soltanifar said. There are a number of ports and piers whose capacities are not yet fully engaged.
Domestic tourists are after two- and three-star hotels and lodgings; while foreign tourists demand four- and five-star hotels, necessitating establishment of a greater number of large hotels.
Compared to the past years, travels were distributed across the country more evenly. Ministry of Interior and police are to install 1,880 monitoring cameras on the country’s roads. Soltanifar expressed hope that the required budget will be provided in a few years, adding that transportation - land or air – is the most important factor in the development of tourism. Foreign tourism especially needs a proper transportation network, which takes time to establish.
Recent sanctions contributed to the challenging condition of domestic transportation. “There is hope that the framework nuclear deal the government’s plan will resolve some of the problems in Iran’s tourism.”

  36m Tourists
During the first 10 days of the Nowruz holidays, over 36 million people stayed at lodging facilities of the country, and that is excluding the number of people who stayed in private properties. Hotels and lodges comprised 8% of the total stays; about 14% of the stays were reported to have been in government facilities; and the rest of the people stayed in temporary camp sites.
“Therefore, temporary camps should be expanded and equipped for the future,” Soltanifar concluded.
Visits to cultural and historical attractions increased to 170%, compared to the same period last year, while museums received 20% to 60% more visitors.
Soltanifar complained that domestic tourists are not accustomed to proper use of services of hotels and lodging facilities.
According to the ICHHTO chief, the organization has proposed re-introduction of winter holidays to the government in the hopes of promoting winter travel.


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