Realigning Tourism Data

Realigning Tourism DataRealigning Tourism Data

When Sir Robert Armstrong, a former UK Cabinet secretary, was asked to explain the difference between “a lie” and a “misleading impression”, he defined the latter as “being economical with the truth.”

Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, previously stated that foreign tourists in Iran spent $1,700 per person on average in 2013. Going by that figure, he estimated Iran’s tourism revenue for that year to be $6 billion.

However, according to a recent report of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, average tourist expenditure in the Middle East in 2013 was $920, while in the US, which is an expensive country for tourism, the figure stood at $1550 per person, the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reported.

The striking discrepancy between the figure touted by Iranian officials and the ones released by UNWTO points to one major problem: Iran needs to step up its efforts to implement accurate data collection.

Countries such as Iran that aim to develop tourism need accurate statistics to devise effective plans and programs. Pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of any industry without good data is a complex and futile attempt.

  Data Discrepancy

The incongruity in statistics stem from different—and often faulty—data collection used by different organizations, and their subjective interpretation. Implementation of a uniform method of data collection and interpretation could help solve the matter, according to experts.

Pointing to the UNWTO report, Mohammad Hossein Imani, who heads the Iranian Tourism Scientific Association, said Iran is the most affordable country in the world, which casts doubt over the tourist expenditure figure cited by tourism officials.

“Most foreign tourists in Iran come from neighboring countries with low GDP, so how can they spend $1,700 per person in the world’s most affordable country!” he mused.

Flaunting such high figures may even deter potential tourists from visiting Iran, which will surely be a blow to the country’s tourism goals.

Imani said indices used in data collection are already well-defined, but no real effort has been made to integrate data collection.

He said the government is wearing itself thin by trying to manage everything related to the industry.

“The responsibility of establishing lodging facilities and airlines, among others, must be delegated to the private sector. The government should concentrate its efforts on devising regulations and implementing accurate data collection to help boost tourism.”

Intelligent allocation of resources and division of responsibility will pave the way for tourism development. Cooperation of the public and private sectors will lead to job creation and strengthen the economy.

Iran’s tourism potential must be capitalized to turn the country into a global tourist destination. In addition to being the most cost-friendly tourist spot in the world, Iran boasts 17 World Heritage Sites and has something to offer to satisfy every taste.