ICHHTO Expanding China Presence

ICHHTO Expanding China PresenceICHHTO Expanding China Presence

Iran is set to expand its presence in China by setting up more tourist information offices in the East Asian country.

Speaking to CCTV, China’s state television broadcaster, Masoud Soltanifar, the head of the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, said his organization will set up three offices in China by December.

Last April, Iran opened two offices in China.

Iran is targeting 20 million annual tourists by 2025, and Soltanifar believes the Chinese should make up 10-20% of the inbound traffic.

Chinese tourists currently make up 1% of the country’s five million foreign tourists.

“Current inbound figures from China do not reflect Iran’s true potential. We’re targeting one to two million Chinese tourists a year in the next 10 years,” Soltanifar was quoted as saying by CCTV.

With 120 million outbound trips, China was once again the top source country for international tourists in 2015, according to a report by the UN World Tourism Organization published on Monday. That is a 12% increase compared to a year before.

Experts estimate that by 2020, outbound mainland tourist numbers will reach 200 million.

Chinese travelers were also the biggest spenders last year, with China posting double-digit growth in tourism expenditure every year since 2004.

Iran has already simplified the visa process for Chinese tourists, who are issued visas upon arrival at Iran’s international airports.

The Chinese are partial to their own meals and prefer to have a Chinese-speaking tour guide at all times: Two things Iran is lacking.

“We are aware that we need to invest in suitable facilities and infrastructure to meet the demand of Chinese travelers,” the official said. “For example, we are opening more Chinese restaurants and training travel guides to speak Chinese.”

  Tourism Cooperation

Strengthening tourism ties is believed to be one of the main topics of discussion between President Hassan Rouhani and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who is leading a high-ranking delegation to Iran.

“If the two sides agree, a memorandum of understanding will be signed that includes increasing outbound Chinese travel to Iran to over one million,” Soltanifar said, adding that the two states can also expand cooperation in the handicraft sector.

Iran has been eying the Chinese market for well over a decade, but sanctions, poor infrastructure and lack of planning hampered the attempt to draw tourists from the world’s largest country and the second economic power.

China is believed to be on top of a list of 40 target markets compiled by the ICHHTO and the Foreign Ministry, with Russia and India rounding up the top three.