Must-Dos at Int'l Expos

Lackluster marketing, poor use of technology and lack of a catchy slogan undermine Iran’s participation in international expos
The dome of the Jame' Mosque of Isfahan, a city which has a constant presence in travel brochuresThe dome of the Jame' Mosque of Isfahan, a city which has a constant presence in travel brochures
A comprehensive five-year plan is necessary to address Iran’s shortcomings

Iran has made efforts to attend major international tourism exhibitions over the past few years, but the jury is still out whether its participation has been effective.

According to Abdollah Abbaszadeh, who was in charge of organizing the Iranian delegation's pavilion at Spain's FITUR exhibition (Jan. 18-22), Iran's two major weaknesses have been the country's poor use of technological advancements in the field and a lack of a catchy slogan.

An annual tourism trade fair in Madrid, FITUR is considered one of the largest travel exhibitions in the world. Making an impression in an event attended by around a quarter of a million visitors from more than 130 countries could give a big boost to Iran's tourism sector.

To make a bigger impact, Abbaszadeh told IRNA that Iran needs a comprehensive five-year plan with clear goals.

The official added that the presence of a senior official from Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization in such events will go a long way in establishing ties and making a good impression.

"It is important to have a tourism official who can establish a rapport with the media and outline the organization's policies," he said. Pointing to the perennial problem of poor marketing, Abbaszadeh said the lack of a slogan and a clear plan to take advantage of the platform provided by international exhibitions and the social media are rendering the country's efforts futile.

"We need to have a strong online presence, especially on the websites of major events," he added.

  Defining New Routes

Tour packages prepared by Iranian tour operators focus on a handful of cities, which bring with them a whole host of problems. "It's always the same cities—Isfahan, Shiraz, Tehran. When you focus on the same destinations in all your proposed packages, you put strong pressure on those cities and infrastructure," Abbaszadeh said. 

"Quality hotels in these cities are always booked (in the high season), while lodging facilities in other destinations are basically empty."

Another opportunity afforded to travel agencies in events like FITUR is the ability to promote tour packages using services provided by the UN World Tourism Organization.

"UNWTO is one of the main organizers of FITUR and helps agencies market their products; yet another thing we're missing out on," he said. 

"Iranian travel agencies don't take advantage of this. Instead, they prefer to market their products in person when visitors come to the booth."

Participation in international expos is necessary to promote Iranian tourism attractions and provides a platform for tourism authorities and travel agencies to meet their counterparts from across continents. 

These events offer cost-effective opportunities for exploring overseas markets and introducing new packages, as long as there is a clear plan to seize the opportunities.

The next major tourism expo that Iran will participate in is the ITB Berlin event on March 8-10.

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