Micromanagement, Taxes Stymie Growth

Micromanagement, Taxes Stymie Growth Micromanagement, Taxes Stymie Growth

Tourism professionals on Saturday aired grievances about the current state of the travel industry in a meeting with officials of the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

Morteza Rahmani Movahed, tourism deputy at the organization, tour operators, travel agents and hoteliers called on the government, particularly the ICHHTO, to streamline policies in order to encourage investment and growth in the sector, IRNA reported.

“Tourism is a fragile industry in Iran,” the CEO of Iran Touring and Tourism Investment Company Mohsen Qarib said.

“The fact that the sector has yet to receive tax breaks shows we still have a long way to go.”

Qarib said tax exemption will help sway investors to finance tourism projects and urged officials to do all they can to promote the benefits of a functioning tourism sector.

Hamid Keshaei, chief executive of Kowsar Hotels, warned against the growing gulf between the public and private sectors and said the differences over how to move the tourism agenda forward “will ultimately weaken the industry.”

“We need to stop viewing the two sectors as separate; we can only move forward if we work together,” he said.

Echoing Keshaei’s sentiments, Hamid Amini of Arian Tourist travel agency said,” The private sector supports the ICHHTO, but disunity within the sector itself exacerbates the growing divide between the private sector and government.”

Just as the private sector is ready to help ICHHTO, the organization must reciprocate, “and that means reducing and eventually eliminating the involvement of other government entities in the industry’s affairs,” said Faramarz Saeedi, director of Gulliver Travel Agency.

However, calling for ICHHTO support does not imply that the organization is supposed to exert full control over the industry, as pointed out by Akbar Ghamkhar, manager of Persepolis Tours.

“We’re not against government involvement…What we want is that the organization only play a supervisory role,” he said, representing the voice and vision of private companies, not only in tourism, but the economy in general, that the government would be doing a big favor if it reduces its intervention in all business and manufacturing affairs.

“This will in turn empower the private sector, making it a powerful arm of the industry whose services can be used by the organization to develop tourism.”

Some attendees called for acculturation of tourism and said its lack is the root cause of the majority of the problems the sector is facing.

“We need to change our mentality — not as professionals, but as people — toward tourism,” said an individual identified only as Maddah in the IRNA report.

  Public-Private Partnership

Movahed agreed with the professionals’ call for strengthening ties between the two sectors and said, “It goes without saying that a healthy relationship between the government and private sector will help move the industry forward.”

The tourism official said public-private partnership will play an undeniable role in helping Iran meet its tourism targets, which include attracting 20 million tourists a year by 2025.

“This partnership should be robust so that it becomes a tourism authority in and of itself,” he said, noting that as long as the law is upheld and the will to cooperate remains, “good things will happen.”

Movahed said his office is awaiting instructions from the ICHHTO chief, Masoud Soltanifar, to embark on the challenging task of forming the partnership.