Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Iran News - Iran can easily turn into a tourist hub

Iran News - Iran can easily turn into a tourist hub: " Iran can easily turn into a tourist hub

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - ©2005 IranMania.com

LONDON, June 21 (IranMania) - The disasters that have affected the Southeast Asia region recently appear to have awakened the world economists to the importance of tourism, and to poverty alleviation in particular, MNA reported.

In the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) ESCAP's annual state of the Asia-Pacific economic report, released recently, tourism is mentioned 64 times in assessing the conditions of countries, considered in UN classification as being “least developed economies”.

This is a big change from the past, when tourism was frivolously treated in the report as a fringe industry. But the recent Sars and tsunami disasters showed how dependent these countries are on tourism for both jobs and export earnings.

Paradoxically, although these countries have long stressed the positive impact of tourism on their economies, it is not until the negative effects that economists suddenly realize that tourism is a serious business, not just a fun-and-frolic means of recreation for foreigners.

But, in our country Iran, it seems that the officials in charge of the tourism industry have only got a vague idea of what tourism is really about.

Addressing a seminar on expansion of Iran-Spain tourism cooperation held in Tehran last month Ali Hashemi, a top official in Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization said that, Iran owns only 0.09 percent of the world’s tourism facilities and is planning to raise the figure to 1.5 percent on a 20-year horizon.

Meanwhile, another high-ranking authority in the same organization noted that Iran has a share of 0.07 percent in the world’s total tourism revenues and is willing to increase the figure to two percent by end of the 20-year plan. He added that the number of the foreign tourists traveling to Iran stands at 700,000, which will rise to 20 million by end of the 20-year plan earning the country an income of $25 billion.

In fact, the more we become aware of the realities of the global village, the more we should strip ourselves of the cocoon of isolation we have spun around ourselves. More dangerous than the isolation itself is the mentality behind it, the mentality that defies changes and rejects innovation.

It is about time we reviewed the past, we have missed great opportunities.

We should wake up, we have overslept. Out of the about 200 hotels operational in 1978, only 60 are working now. In another word, after all these years we have gone backwards rather than making our way forward.

Given the substandard residential accommodations, unsuitable roads, private sector’s lack of confidence and interest in investing in the field and thousands of many other underlying factors that have resulted in the miserable situation of the industry how on earth would it be possible to expect to attract seven million tourists in a year? The expectation would seem a bit comic if we close our eyes just for a moment and try to visualize the very few foreign passengers that every now and then arrive in the country and to see them that from the very beginning of their arrival at the airport they have a hard time trying to find and use a decent toilet let alone the public lavatories elsewhere in our major cities.

Now what should be done? Before we start we should admit that we have neglected the most obvious key factors crucial to the development of tourism as well as the basic infrastructures required for the industry.

Iran’s tourism industry, if it is to flourish, should coordinate itself with that of the rest of the world. Undoubtedly, one of the major issues in this regard is the significant participation of the domestic private sector in the industry as well as attracting foreign investments in the field particularly in the social and economic infrastructure of the industry.

But, more urgent to the investment, realization of which would definitely take many years, is achieving an organizational stability, coherence and consistency in the sector.

Moreover, the responsible officials should bear in mind that tourism is a complex industry that encompasses all the social, economic, political and cultural aspects of a society and without the required consistency in all these aspects none of the development programs in the sector could be implemented or succeed.

In fact, if we are to attract only one percent of the world’s tourists, we should be prepared to become host to some seven million tourists every year. But, remembering the fact that we are still way far from this goal how would it be possible to attract 2% of the world’s tourists?

To attain the goal, the most immediate measure to be taken is to first of all get rid of or at least reduce the cumbersome red tape and bureaucratic burdens and focus on marketing and publicity worldwide. We have to make for the missed opportunities of the past.

Nevertheless, we should also be very careful not to sell cheap. We should take lesson from the destruction resulted by the past tourism boom in Spain and the Mediterranean countries. Irreversible damages have been inflicted to the areas. Many endangered species of the wildlife have vanished or are disappearing from the largest enclosed sea of the world.

Iran enjoys rich natural and historical attractions. It is one of the seven major civilizations of the world, housing thousands of historical monuments. Such monuments as Haft-Tappeh, Hegmataneh and Persepolis as well as monuments located in open areas such as Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan and the Yazd Mosque in Yazd. In addition to all this, the ethnic and geographic diversities have created a good collection of tourism attractions in Iran."

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