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No Stats, No Plans

Travel & Environment Desk
Most Iranian experts single out the lack of statistical knowledge as the main reason undermining tourism plans
The lack of a comprehensive data collection method is one of a handful of problems that has not yet been addressed.The lack of a comprehensive data collection method is one of a handful of problems that has not yet been addressed.
Statistics on foreign and domestic tourists are key to assessing the effects of tourism on the economy and making plans for the development of the sector

One of the most chronic challenges facing Iran’s tourism industry, which refuses to go away, pertains to statistics, or lack thereof.

While tourism officials are gradually addressing some of the most pressing issues that have long hindered the sector, such as the shortage of quality hotels and the aging air fleet, the one problem that has confounded the authorities is the lack of a comprehensive data collection method.

While Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization issues annual updates on the total number of foreign tourists, they have never provided a detailed breakdown of the figures.

Which country do most tourists come from? What is the main purpose of their visits? Which city hosted the most number of tourists? These are but a few key questions that an established data gathering system should address.

Most Iranian experts single out the lack of statistical knowledge due to poor, and at times, contradicting data as the main reason undermining tourism plans and the future course of action.

Observers say Iran is in dire need of introducing Tourism Satellite Accounts—a standard statistical framework and the main tool for the economic measurement of tourism.

TSA adopts a system of national accounts, which records the acquisition of goods and services by visitors while traveling. This enables the generation of tourism economic data, such as the industry’s contribution to GDP, which is comparable with other economic statistics.

Iran has not submitted inbound tourism figures to UNWTO since 2004 and worse, it has failed to disclose where foreign tourists come from since 1995.

In a report published last year by the World Tourism and Travel Council, it was pointed out that lack of TSA in countries like Iran forces the council to produce estimates instead of precise figures. It also hinders the process of precise up-to-date data gathering that is vital to knowing the setbacks/problem areas and shaping a robust and profitable tourism industry.

In an article published on Saturday in the Persian daily SAMT (an abbreviation of the Persian words for industry, mine and trade), journalist Saba Rezaei questioned the secrecy governing the tourism officials’ attitude toward disclosing data.

“It is, indeed, curious that while every other industry has access to the statistics they need and have no qualms about going public with them, those involved in the tourism sector opt to hide the details,” he said.

Statistics on foreign and domestic tourists are key to assessing the effects of tourism on the economy and making plans for the development of the sector, and if Iran is to achieve its ambitious tourism goals, it really has to step up its game with stats.

 

Financialtribune.com