Tourism Trends Lopsided

Tourist arrivals are insignificant and outpaced by outbound tourism statistics
Inbound tourism declined by 1.1% while outbound tourism saw a 20.9% increase.
Inbound tourism declined by 1.1% while outbound tourism saw a 20.9% increase.

Iran's outbound tourism compared with inbound travel has been disproportionate for much of the past four years, as more people exited the borders than those who have entered.

Since 2013, the inbound-outbound ratio has tilted in favor of arrivals only once and that was in the summer of 2014 when the number of incoming tourists increased by a slight degree. At most other times, outbound tourists have outnumbered the incoming visitors, Tabnak news website reported.

Over the first five months of the current Iranian year (started March 21), 2.1 million tourists visited Iran, registering a 1.1% decline compared with the same period of last year. This is while 3.4 million Iranians traveled abroad in this period, marking a 20.9% increase from last year.

Based on official reports, one job is created by every six foreign tourists and another by 25 domestic tourists. This implies that Iran has missed the opportunity of generating an acceptable number of jobs through tourism, as arrivals have been insignificant and domestic tourists have left for foreign destinations in growing numbers.

The role of tourism in creating employment has been repeatedly highlighted by the government. The rate of unemployment saw a 0.9% decline in the summer compared to spring and reached 11.7%. However, the figure is far from the target of 8.6% set in the Sixth Economic Development Plan (2017-22).

In view of tourism's huge potentials, more attention should be paid to the industry if the target is ever to be achieved.

Besides, based on the UN World Tourism Organization's estimate, each tourist spends an average $1,220 in the South Asian region, including Iran. In other words, the country's tourism revenue does not match its outflow of foreign currency.  Iran’s declared goal is to attract 20 million tourists annually by 2025, generating $30 billion in revenue. However, with only eight years to go, the target appears to be very ambitious.


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