Proposal to Promote Domestic Travel

Proposal to Promote Domestic TravelProposal to Promote Domestic Travel

As officials incorporate Iran’s tourism plans in the sixth five-year economic development plan (2016-21), the private sector’s lack of participation in brainstorming ideas has often been criticized by officials, most recently by Iran’s vice president for tourism, Masoud Soltanifar.

For over a year, the official called on the private sector to help plan for Iran’s emerging travel market, but the private sector remained inert, the Persian travel news website Donyaye Safar reported.

It was not until last week that the private sector prepared an outline of its suggestions to be included in the plan.

  Encouraging Travel

The private sector believes the government should play a more active role in encouraging travel, at least among government employees.

As such, they propose that the government take 1% of every employee and pensioner’s monthly salary and deposit it in a new bank account under the name of the employee/pensioner to be accessed only for travel purposes.

They also suggest an annual one-percent increase to the amount of money deducted from the salary, so that by the end of the five-year plan, the government deposits 5% of the employees’/pensioners’ monthly salary in their “travel accounts”.

  Funding for ICHHTO

Another proposal obliges the government to allocate a percentage of customs duties collected from outbound travelers to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

The revenue is to be only used to support the private sector’s investments in the tourism industry.

The percentage of customs duties to be given to the organization will be decided by related authorities.

  Ownership of Tourism Facilities

The private sector suggests that the Ministry of Economy transfer the ownership of all tourism-related facilities, including lodging and recreational facilities, which are owned by the government’s executive bodies under Article 5 of the Civil Service Management Code, to the Iran Tourism Development Corporation.

ITDC will then cooperate with the Iran Privatization Organization to sell shares of the establishments to the private sector by 2019.

  Duty-Free Imports

Tax-free import of goods and services brought to Iran for the sole purpose of developing tourism infrastructure is another proposal.

To prevent fraud, they emphasize that Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization should approve imported goods and services, and suggest strict penalties against those who use the goods for non-tourism purposes.

The law also covers the import of buses and other vehicles used for tourism purposes.

The private sector’s proposal is subject to review and changes might be suggested by tourism authorities to implement the suggestions.

This is the first time that tourism has been given special attention in the country’s economic development plans.

In spite of Iran’s potential to become a top tourist destination, the lack of attention given to tourism in the country’s five-year development plans prevented the progress of an industry that is thriving in most other countries with less potential.

In the Fourth Plan (2004-09) and Fifth Plan (2010-15), tourism development was addressed under the “cultural” chapter, but lackluster efforts ensured none of the outlined objectives was met, despite tourism officials constantly pointing to the importance of the industry and the need to develop infrastructure.

Last week, Soltanifar announced a master tourism plan is in the works that will be ready by March 2016 for implementation in the economic development plan.

The master plan, which factors in the government’s policies and Iran’s tourism potential, contains details on how to make the best use of the country’s cultural, historical, natural and religious heritages.