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Shortage of Tour Guides Hurting Travel Industry

Only about 300 of the 7,000 authorized tour guides are qualified
In line with Iran's tourism goals, the country needs 1,000 tour guides by 2025. (Photo: Arasbaran.org)In line with Iran's tourism goals, the country needs 1,000 tour guides by 2025. (Photo: Arasbaran.org)

Only a fraction of all registered tour guides in Iran actually possess the skills to conduct tours for foreign tourists, the chief executive of Iranian Tour Operators Association said.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Ebrahim Pourfaraj said, "Only about 300 of the 7,000 authorized tour guides are qualified," ISNA reported. Based on Iran's goal of attracting 20 million tourists a year by 2025, the country needs 1,000 skilled tour guides, he added. Last year, 5.2 million tourists visited Iran.

Criticizing licensed training centers for failing to prepare tour guides, he accused them of charging trainees exorbitant fees without imparting knowledge.

"Most students lack a basic knowledge of English, which makes you wonder what they learn at these institutes," Pourfaraj said, adding that only four people out of the 300 he recently interviewed for membership at ITOA qualified for the job. To remedy the problem, he said the ITOA has struck a deal with Iran Tourist Guides Association to help improve the quality of education and train capable tour guides.

Based on the agreement, the two associations hold a jointly-prepared complementary course for licensed tour guides. The course is conducted in English, French, Italian and German. The course costs 12 million rials ($320) per person but a student only pays 30% of this amount.

"We don't want financial problems to be in the way, so we [the two associations] pay 70% of the fee per student," Pourfaraj added.

Forty tour guides signed up for the first course, but only 18 had sufficient knowledge of the English language to get in.

"The rest were referred to an English language institute, with which we have a deal to improve their language skills," he said.

Having lost its allure due to political differences with the West and international sanctions, the quality of services in both the tourism and hospitality sectors plummeted in Iran.

However, following the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015 and the subsequent lifting of some economic sanctions, Iran now finds itself back on travel brochures and is scrambling to up its standards to cater to the demands of foreign travelers.

The prestigious Swiss hospitality school Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (Lausanne Hotel School) and Dutch Hotelschool The Hague have announced plans to set up schools in Iran, while the government has signed an agreement with France to have Iranian hotel managers and staff trained by French experts.

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