Iran Must Improve Quality of Tourist Services

Iran Must Improve Quality of Tourist ServicesIran Must Improve Quality of Tourist Services

Iran welcomes the surge in the number of foreign visitors pouring into the country, but authorities are all too aware that quality must to be raised as poor customer services could taint this positive wave.

Iran enjoyed a small but steady flow of foreign visitors up until the early 2000s, but these numbers dramatically dwindled over the past several years, with the tourism industry almost entirely catering to domestic tourists.

During these challenging times, a discrete number of highly trained, professional tour guides and tour companies 'kept the show on the road' with foreign visitors, offering a high quality service.

The recent influx of foreign visitors and the new interest in Iran, however, has tipped the balance, and since all tour groups travelling through Iran must be accompanied by a tour guide, the demand for tour guides has skyrocketed.

The insufficient number of well trained tour guides means that the quality of services has been driven down as guides with inadequate training and without the necessary language proficiency have been pushed through to meet the demand.

The poor quality services has also put a spotlight on the antiquated national tour leader curriculum, which focuses on history and geography and overlooks almost entirely customer service training and knowledge of the industry.

While good customer training skills can 'grease the wheels' and even sometimes compensate for poor language skills, language proficiency cannot be overlooked as an issue.

While English language skills should be improved, Iran is now also receiving numerous visitors from non-English speaking countries such as China, Japan and Korea as well as tourists from Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine.  

Most tourists especially those from China, Korea, Japan and Russia specifically request guides who can speak their respective language.

Of the 7000 certified tour guides only 1000 are actively operating tours and these only a small handful speak a language other than English.

Industry leaders and government officials are aware of this shortfall and are working to upgrade the training curriculum adding a strong emphasis on customer skills training.  They are also working with language schools and universities to fast-track language graduates into tour leader posts.

This being said, the challenges are many and providing quality services to tourists cannot fall entirely on the shoulders of tour guides.  The entire tourism infrastructure should be placed under review such as: adding to and upgrading old and tired hotels, better, cleaner on-the-road service facilities, restaurants that better cater to tourists' needs, as well as higher quality explanatory information in museums and historical sites.

The authorities are committed to meeting the language, training, and customer service challenges and have already identified some steps forward. These include changes to the training curriculum, more effective monitoring and audit as well as recruiting from language schools.