What Needs to Be Done

What Needs to Be DoneWhat Needs to Be Done

Experts believe there is a relationship between a country’s industry and its security, and that the level of industrial development mirrors the stability of the country’s security. The importance of a developed tourism industry becomes apparent when one studies developed nations: despite enjoying a plethora of financial resources and eye-popping revenues, they focus their attention and resources on the advancement of their tourism industry.

In an article published in Donya-e Eghtesad, Bahareh Maleki explains: “By attracting tourists, not only do they enhance ties with other nations, but they also promote their own country as a secure place.”

Even though the number of foreign tourists visiting Iran was on the rise up until the 1979 Iranian Revolution, it saw a rapid decline post-Revolution due to western media portraying Iran as an unsafe and dangerous place. Additionally, the 8-year Iran-Iraq war that followed put a dent in the country’s plans to get back into the game. Furthermore, the government decentralized the management of tourism by tasking different bodies with the running of different industries, such as the hospitality industry which has a direct influence on tourism.

Nevertheless, since the mid-1990s officials began to pay attention to the development of the industry, as evidenced by the importance it was given in Iran’s Five-Year Development Plans. Despite the attention, however, Iran has yet to realize its potential as a major tourist destination in the world; a notion supported by the fact that Iran’s share of global tourism revenue is less than 1%.

  Missing Out

There are a variety of reasons holding Iran back from vying for tourism dollars. Weak macromanagement is a glaring problem. The current system is incapable of satisfying the industry’s demands; therefore, it stands to reason to allow the private sector to operate hotels, transport companies, and airports. Private ownership promotes competition; an inseparable part of a developed industry.

Another problem plaguing the industry is lack of skilled people. Those employed in the sector do not have enough expertise to push the industry forward, which in turn lead to bad - and sometimes costly - decisions.

An important challenge is people’s unawareness regarding their own region’s tourist attractions. Furthermore, most Iranians are not fluent in English, which makes communication with foreign tourists difficult.

Most, if not all, tourists use international credit and debit cards when they travel abroad. Due to the sanctions, however, foreign payment cards cannot be used in the country which deters tourists.

Other challenges include weak promotion of tourist attractions as well as facilities lacking international standards.

  Better Late Than Never

It is not too late to start planning for the future in order to make Iran a top tourist destination.

Preparing and updating information on all tourist sites in the form of brochures, video clips, and tourist maps in various languages would definitely be a step in the right direction. Moreover, introducing Iranians to the world’s different cultures would help them better prepare to host our foreign visitors.

Hosting conferences and events both in and out of the country can help boost Iran’s image in the world and counter the smear campaign against Iran in the western media.

Improving Iran’s infrastructure is an absolute necessity to be able to compete with other tourist hotspots. To that end, a sufficiently large budget is required.

Last, but definitely not least, is the establishment of a centralized, integrated management system. When a single, capable authority oversees the operation of tourist-related industries, there is a far lower chance of miscommunication and disharmony, pushing Iran’s tourism forward to explore new frontiers.

Given Iran’s capacity to become a leader in global tourism, efforts need to shift into high gear to allow Iran realize its potential and reap the cultural and financial benefits of tourism.