Achilles Heel of Tourism

Achilles Heel of Tourism
Achilles Heel of Tourism

The upward trend in the number of foreign tourists can lead to demand exceeding supply, according to a report by Iranian Students Tourism and Traveling Agency (ISTTA).

While the growing number of foreign visitors bodes well for the future of tourism, it has exposed significant shortcomings, according to Masud Abdollahi.

“Lack of multilingual tour guides and police officers able to speak basic English are among the industry’s weaknesses.”

  Major Destinations, Big Problems

The problems become obvious in cities such as Isfahan, a destination for a large number of tourists.

The general consensus among tour guides is that Isfahan lacks sufficient infrastructure, specifically hotels, to accommodate the growing need of tourists. While the boost in the number of tourists may be regarded as a positive thing in the short term, it can only become problematic in the long run if supply does not catch up with the growing demand.

Advertising a country’s attractions is only one part of promoting the country’s global profile; a major part of advertising is word of mouth. Once foreign tourists return home, their description of their experience can either encourage others to visit, or dissuade them from ever thinking about taking a trip there.

  Forming Queues

Arash Nooraghayee, president of Iran Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (IFTGA) painted a vivid picture of the problem.

“There are two scenarios: first, imagine there is a house with a capacity of 5 people, but we host 8 people in the house. Clearly, it is inconvenient and the amenities cannot satisfy demand, it was never meant to host more than 5 people. In the second scenario, we host 5 people in the house, and ask the rest to wait. Essentially, we are creating a line of tourists, waiting to be hosted.”

The second scenario is basically the policy followed by India at some point.

“In the past when India had to accommodate more tourists than it actually could, Indian officials implemented a system where they issued visas based on the country’s capacity to host visitors,” he elaborated.

“Those who are intent on visiting Iran will wait their turn. However, some will be discouraged from visiting; an issue that can be amended by improving Iran’s capacity as soon as possible.”

  Growing Demand Improves Supply

Once supply catches up with demand, Iran can rely on tourism revenue, according to Nooraghayee.

“Nevertheless, there are obstacles which prevent investment in the industry.”

Elaborating on the subject, the expert asserted that countries strive to facilitate both domestic and foreign investment in the tourism industry and urged Iranian officials to prepare the ground for investors by reducing unhelpful bureaucracy, among other measures.

Iran’s 20-year Vision Plan targets 20 million tourists by 2025 which can help rake in $30 billion. In order to become a global tourist destination, Iran needs to improve its tourism infrastructure before it can begin to promote the industry and meet its goals.