Another Missed Opportunity

Another Missed OpportunityAnother Missed Opportunity

International travel exhibitions offer some of the most cost-effective opportunities for exploring overseas markets, introducing new packages, and attracting investment. With that knowledge, Iran sent one of its biggest delegations yet to the reputable Fitur 2016, held in the Spanish capital Madrid (January 20-24) — but it may have failed to take full advantage of the opportunity.

“This year was different,” said Morteza Haji, the head of the delegation and official representative of Masoud Soltanifar, director of the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization. “The event took place a few days after the sanctions were lifted, so industry insiders and potential travelers were eager to see what we had to offer,” the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reported.

Western-imposed sanctions on Iran were lifted in mid- January, following Tehran’s compliance with its obligations as stated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the official name of a nuclear agreement signed last year between Iran and the six world powers (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany).

“Iran was featured on numerous travel brochures,” he said, adding that there is a pent-up demand among western and Latin American tourists to visit.

  Grossly Unprepared

Haji said all types of people, travelers, tour agents and businesspeople “came up to our pavilion and asked questions, genuinely interested in what we had to say.”

But that is where “we may have disappointed.”

He went on to say that “Spanish investors very openly expressed interest in financing tourism projects in Iran, but we had absolutely nothing to show them about investment opportunities,” he said, without explaining why the delegation was so grossly unprepared.

Since last August, Soltanifar and his deputies have talked about unveiling some investment package of 1,500 projects “within days.” So far nothing has been announced.

Every year, industry heavy weights hold seminars and conduct workshops at Fitur, imparting knowledge and experience to nations with an emerging travel market, but not a single member of the Iranian delegation took part in these events, the newspaper complained,.

“We need to address this in future expos, we can’t afford to miss out on these,” Haji said.

Strangely, the Iranian team was reportedly unhappy with being placed in a same hall as other Middle Eastern and North African countries.

“We believe we should be grouped in the Asia and Oceania category,” the official said, without elaborating.

This year’s Fitur expo provided Iranian officials with a unique opportunity to not only promote the myriad of attractions the country has to offer, but also introduce lucrative investment opportunities to eager investors looking to gain a foothold in Iran ahead of others, but as is always the case, mismanagement and poor preparation was king.

Iran is one the most ancient countries in the world with a rich history and a lot to show, including 19 World Heritage Sites. But as long as the ICHHTO continues its lackluster marketing strategies, Iran is unlikely to become one of the top global tourist destinations it strives to be.