ICHHTO’s Changeover Under Discussion

The general attitude toward the scheme was positive as most of the attendants believed it would be beneficial
Lawmakers and tourism officials discussed the pros and cons of ICHHTO’s conversion to a ministry last week.
Lawmakers and tourism officials discussed the pros and cons of ICHHTO’s conversion to a ministry last week.

Lawmakers and tourism officials attended a meeting last week to discuss the scheme on converting Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization into a ministry.  

Most of them were of the opinion that conversion alone could not bring about a fundamental improvement in the sector and specialized plans are required to enhance the new entity’s efficiency.

Nevertheless, the general attitude toward the scheme was positive and a related bill appears to have high chances of approval in the parliament.

Salman Khodadadi, the head of the joint commission on the scheme, said lawmakers’ strong approval reflects public demand, Mehr News Agency reported.

“More than 100 members of the parliament have supported the scheme, but more needs to be done to perfect the plan,” he said.

The participants almost unanimously agreed that a repeated change of management and the director’s lack of expertise in the field have caused the most disruption in ICHHTO’s operation.

Parvaneh Salahshour, the deputy head of the joint commission, regretted that ICHHTO chiefs are selected from among ministerial nominees who have failed to gain the parliament’s approval.

She asserted that conversion to a ministry will enable the parliament to have a say in the selection of the organization’s governing board as well as control over its operation.

“Only those with relevant expertise will gain the parliament’s vote of confidence and they will have to appoint qualified people as deputies,” she said.

Ebrahim Pour-Faraj, the president of Iran Tour Operators Association, said as a ministry, the officials will have to respond to the parliament when they fail to work efficiently.

Mohsen Eslami, the head of the Association of Tourism Educational Institutes, said many institutes active in the field do not have a legal position and the formation of a ministry will give them a legal status.

“Apart from free zone organizations, about 125 small and large institutes are involved in tourism and a ministry is needed to coordinate their affairs,” he said.

Mehdi Narimani, the head of Isfahan’s Hoteliers Association, also voiced dismay over the fact that other entities such as the Education Ministry and municipalities interfere in tourism affairs and ICHHTO has no control over them.

“The Education Ministry earns great revenue from its lodging places and municipalities operate bus tours,” he said, adding that a ministry will have more authority in the sector.  

Another point stressed in the meeting was the participation of the private sector.

Soheila Jelodarzadeh, Tehran’s representative in the parliament, called on private organizations to propose a suitable structure.

“The private sector’s ideas and government’s studies must be put together to reach a logical conclusion,” she said.

However, Mirhadi Qare Seyyed-Roumiani, ICHHTO’s deputy for legal affairs, stressed that reforms in the organization’s policies and regulations are essential before considering a conversion.

He added that ICHHTO must be led toward earning sustainable income by involving the private sector and that would require legal transparency.

“If this happens, it will not matter whether it is an organization or a ministry,” he said.

According to Seyyed-Roumiani, the general policies of the organization must be devised and notified because otherwise, problems would persist even after a ministry is formed.

The general principles of the bill on converting ICHHTO into a ministry have been approved by the Majlis Joint Commission. The details are currently under study before submitting the bill to the parliament before the final approval.

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