MPs Agree to Discuss ICHHTO Changeover

Similar proposals in the past 10 years failed to get approval.Similar proposals in the past 10 years failed to get approval.
Lawmakers argue that the current structure hinders progress, as ICHHTO’s officials are not answerable to the parliament

Lawmakers last week approved a proposal to discuss the pros and cons of converting Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization into a ministry.

Similar proposals were made in the past 10 years, but none were approved amid staunch opposition by ICHHTO officials.

If lawmakers succeed in their latest attempt, it will give them oversight over the ministry’s performance. As things stand, the organization is only answerable to the president and his Cabinet.

Lawmakers and the private sector argue that the current structure hinders progress, as ICHHTO’s officials are not answerable to the parliament.

“They’re not held accountable and it seems that [the officials at ICHHTO] don’t take their responsibilities seriously,” Bahman Mohammadyari, a legislator from Talesh, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

Javad Heravi, the chairman of Majlis Tourism Group, agreed and said, “They’ve lost their way.”

He argued that most developed countries with a strong travel market have a tourism ministry, which shows that elevating ICHHTO’s status can be a good thing.

  Call for In-Depth Studies

Critics say any such decision will temporarily halt tourism plans, holding back progress for a very long time.

Mohammad Ali Najafi, who briefly helmed the ICHHTO when President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013, told lawmakers in an open session over three years ago that elevating the status of the organization “would delay our efforts by a year and ultimately lead to a weakened tourism authority”.

Zahra Ahmadipour, the current head of the organization, says making a snap decision is harmful and “in-depth studies are needed to see if restructuring the organization, which will no doubt be needed, is feasible”.

“We already believe we have an obligation to answer to the parliament,” she added.

Lawmakers have long tried and failed to bring ICHHTO and the Department of Environment, both of which are headed by vice presidents, under their own supervision.

Observers say by turning the organization into a ministry, the public will start paying more attention to its actions, which in turn will put pressure on officials to deliver.

Iran’s 20-year Vision Plan targets 20 million tourists annually by 2025. However, only 5.5 million people traveled to the country last year. That is, however, more than double the 2.5 million people that visited Iran in 2012.

The government argues that it received an economy in ruins and a battered tourism industry from the previous administration, stressing that the industry has been registering double-digit growth every year since 2013.


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