Maritime Tourism

International Desk
Maritime TourismMaritime Tourism

W ith over $1.1 trillion turnover globally, the tourism industry is now a significant part of countries’ direct and indirect revenue. For countries such as Malaysia and Sri Lanka, tourism is the main contributor to their GDP.

This article will take a look at maritime tourism; a major section of the industry which deals with water, shores, and of course, money. First it tries to draw a picture of what maritime tourism looks like; and in the next two parts it separately reviews the current state of this type of tourism in the north and south coastlines of Iran.

This industry with all its extensions such as hotels, restaurants, commercial centers, and travel agencies, along with all entities related to leisure activities and traveling make a great contribution to the world’s economy annually. That is the reason that has intrigued countries like Qatar, the UAE, and even Saudi Arabia, which earn billions of dollars every year from oil sale, to shift their gaze towards the tourism industry for even more income.

As research and experience both show, investing in the tourism industry has always been a secure financial move. In 2012 the number of tourists around the world exceeded 1 billion people. According to the statistics of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), for every tourist 2 to 6 direct jobs and 9 to 15 indirect ones (including productive skills and service-oriented professions) are created.

This is while, despite the huge potential, Iran’s income from tourism sector was only a little over $1 billion last year; a figure which is planned to reach $20 billion by 2025.

Maritime Tourism is among many different types of tourism that benefits the countries along the sea shores. Maritime tourism is the sector of the tourism industry that is based on tourists and visitors taking part in active and passive leisure and holidays pursuits or journeys on (or in) coastal waters, their shorelines and their immediate hinterlands. Marine leisure is a collective name for a full range of activities or pursuits that are undertaken by local people, tourists, and day visitors in these marine related localities.

 Europe Reaping the Benefits

In Europe alone, employing over 3.2 million people, this sector generates close to $200 billion in gross value added, representing over a third of the continent’s maritime economy. As much as 51% of bed capacity in hotels across Europe is concentrated in regions with a sea border.

The European Comission reports that as part of EU’s Blue Growth strategy, the coastal and maritime tourism sector has been identified as an area with special potential to foster a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe. It is the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. The ‘blue’ economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost $543.5 billion a year. However, further growth is possible in a number of areas which are highlighted within the strategy.

Countries with developed marine tourism strive to come up with new ideas and strategies to further expand this sector of the industry. For instance, the EU Commission adopted a Communication on “A European Strategy for more Growth and Jobs in Coastal and Maritime Tourism” in February 2014, presenting a new strategy to enhance coastal and maritime tourism in Europe in order to unlock the potential of this promising sector. The communication was the result of a public consultation launched on The European Maritime Day (EMD) 2013.

 Iran’s Obstacles

Iran enjoys hundreds of kilometers of coastline; the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman in the south. Therefore, Iran could benefit greatly from the income of maritime tourism provided the development of infrastructure and facilities required for expansion of the sector.

Another main factor which hinders investment in this area is safety regulations and marine conventions to which passenger vessels and ships need to conform. An increase in costs is the natural result of such compliance that deters potential investors, encouraging them to seek other areas with less expense and faster return of the capital.

Time is also a determinant. The number of air travelers is five times greater than seafarers and certainly one of the main reasons behind this gap is the longer traveling time for sea journeys.

Another impeding issue is the lack of publicity. This type of tourism does not enjoy the same level of publicity as other types of tourism within Iran. As an expert in maritime tourism puts it, the culture for maritime tourism is not known by Iranians except for those who inhabit coastal areas and possibly those who frequently travel between islands.

However, one of the most important points in the proper development of maritime tourism in Iran is security. The safety and security of the tourists taking trips to the sea is the foundation of a successful marine tourism in today’s world. Iran must build secure ports, produce or import safe watercrafts, and train safe guards in order to promote a safe image of marine tourism.

The number of casualties in Iranian waters, which unfortunately discourages Iranian travelers from taking up marine tours, has undoubtedly forced officials to effectively address the safety and security issues in maritime travels.

Raising public awareness towards this type of tourism, comprehensive introduction of the the country’s maritime potentials and attractions, and support of the government from the sector could be major steps to help prosper the industry.

Promoting Iran’s potential to successfully organize marine tours, bringing attention to the country’s coastlines, and receiving support from the government are steps that need to be taken in order to help maritime tourism prosper and become a source of revenue for Iran.