Tourism After All Is a Tough Sell

Tourism After All Is a Tough Sell Tourism After All Is a Tough Sell

Outbound travel during the Iranian New Year (Norouz) holiday (March 20-April 1), especially to Turkey and UAE, saw a sharp decline as more Iranians opted to travel domestically during the holiday season.

Travel to Turkey and the UAE dropped by 10% and 18% respectively while domestic travel grew by 9% in the same period last year.

Kish Island in the Persian Gulf hosted 23% more tourists compared to last year, most of whom frequented the island’s pristine beaches, making them the island’s top tourist attraction during the holiday.

However, the island’s tourism officials believe Kish has not yet managed to replace Dubai and Istanbul — and they know why, according to a report by the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.

“Iranians are noticing the potential of Kish and some may even prefer the island’s beaches to foreign alternatives. But that’s just one thing people who travel to Turkey look for,” said Mohammad Mohab Khodaei, tourism deputy at the Kish Free Zone Organization.

Aside from the peace, quiet and serenity of the beach, many Iranians are drawn to Turkey also for its shopping malls. Kish may be brimming with tourism potential, but it loses out to its competition when it comes to shopping – something few, if any, Iranians miss when traveling overseas.

“Turkey has succeeded in enticing travelers by transforming shopping into a tourist attraction,” the official said, adding that Iran has to follow suit to ensure it does not fall much more behind.

  Foreign Brands, Domestic Production

Marketing, brand and tourism are three pillars of a successful travel industry, and Turkish officials have largely conformed to this adage to reap the benefits of tourism, according to Khodaei.

“By manufacturing famous international brands locally and selling them to tourists, Turkey has managed to also turn its brand into a household name,” he said. “They have even managed to promote local brands so well that many Iranians name more Turkish brands than Iranian ones.”

Thanks to the lifting of economic sanctions, which has opened the large Iranian market to foreign investors, Iran is in a position to replicate Turkey and boost domestic tourism.

“We have to pave the way for internationally-recognized brands to set up shop in our free zones and produce their products locally,” Khodaei said.

Selling quality products at affordable prices will not only help meet the domestic demand, but it will enable Iran to draw foreign tourists and even export the products, the official noted.

“Facilitating [foreign brands’] entry into Iran will also help create jobs.”

  Halal Tourism

Iran’s self-stated goal is to become the center of halal tourism in the world, and Khodaei believes Kish can help in that direction.

The KFZO represents Iran in Turkey’s tourism and trade fairs, and the official said Muslim travelers “prefer Iranian beaches to Turkish coasts.”

Experts are of the opinion that attracting tourists from the Persian Gulf countries is not only a possibility, but a great opportunity due to the commonality of religion, the Arabs’ high per capita income and the boom in their public welfare in recent years which has seen an increasing number of them travel in the region and beyond.