Fostering Iran Marine Tourism

Marine tourism is only responsible for 1% of national employment and production, a figure officials hope to increase by developing the sector
Sunny will soon begin serving destinations other than QeshmSunny will soon begin serving destinations other than Qeshm
The cruise ship Sunny will begin serving destinations other than Qeshm in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman

Iran's southern coasts have the potential of hosting tourists throughout the year, an official at Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said.

Speaking to Mana news agency, Abdolreza Mohajerinejad, director of Tourism Development and Planning Office, said authorities have banked on Chabahar, Kish and Qeshm to develop southern tourism, "but the hot climate in this region means tourists are only attracted to these locations in winter".

Pointing to the myriads of natural attractions in the three destinations, all of which are free trade zones, the official said tourism development is on the organization's agenda.

"With funding from the private sector, we are currently working on launching hotels and designing sea routes for yachts," he said, without disclosing when the yachts will be purchased and from what country.

Officials claim Iran’s coastal regions have the potential to attract 3 million foreign visitors a year. Development of marine tourism can help the country meet its ambitious target of attracting 20 million annual tourists by 2025, which could net the country more than $25 billion in revenues.

Last year, Iran hosted 5.2 million visitors and earned just over $7.5 billion.

  More Routes for "Sunny"

To help speed up the development of maritime tourism in the south, it was announced on Wednesday that Sunny, a cruise ship owned by Kish Free Zone Organization, will soon begin serving destinations other than Qeshm.

"We've held meetings with tourism officials in Sistan-Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Bushehr and Khuzestan to expand Sunny's routes," Mohajerinejad said. "The plan has always been to get the ship to serve multiple destinations in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman."

Sunny, the first-ever cruise ship to dock at Kish Island in nearly 40 years, made its maiden voyage on April 12 by carrying 400 passengers and crew members to Qeshm Island.

The Sweden-made cruise ship arrived at Kish in late March, making it the first Iran-owned ocean liner to touch the waters of the Persian Gulf since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

While several plans have been put forward for tourism development in Caspian Sea in the north, experts believe that the potential of southern seas, namely the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, has been overlooked.

Nevertheless, measures have been taken to launch marine tourism in the south, initiated by the launch of a route linking Qeshm to Khasab in Oman.

Another project aims to turn Hendurabi Island near Kish into a car-free "ecological paradise". An airport, port and hotel have already been built.

Officials say over 70% of tourism development plans in the sixth five-year development plan (2017-22) are related to marine tourism.

Despite the fact that turning coastal cities into marine tourism hubs has ostensibly been a government priority, the sector is only responsible for 1% of national employment and production.

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