Tourists to discover Iran sooner or later: UNWTO official

November 3, 2015 - 0:0

TEHRAN -- “Sooner or later tourists will discover Iran while they visit the country. Once you come to Iran, you discover a lot of interesting things you never knew about it,” official consultant at United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Tadayuki (Tad) Hara, told the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Hara, who is a senior expert at tourism statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), came to Tehran as an instructor at UNWTO Regional Workshop on Tourism Statistics and TSA, which is currently underway in Tehran.

“I have been in two or three UNWTO workshops as an instructor in the past. However, what is very interesting for me in Tehran is that all people who are concerned with tourism, including immigration officers, officials from the Central Bank of Iran, the Statistical Center of Iran, and tourism office come together to discuss issues,” he explained.

Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicraft Organization (CHTHO) is hosting the workshop, which started on October 31 and runs until November 3.

“Actually, assessment of workshop is a very subjective issue. The only thing that I can say is that very excellent questions were asked by the participants during the workshop. I mean they were very technical ones, which shows that attendants have studied very well about the subject beforehand. This is the first meeting of that kind, which means I hope the meeting in Iran will continue after this,” he said.

------------ Iran tourism may have a quick growth

“I would say there is a potential basically at the moment for tourism industry. However, you have not a long way to go! Once the sanctions are lifted many more people will come to visit the country and you may have a quick growth in number of tourists but is Iran ready to accept huge number of tourists? I don’t know,” he said.

------------- Iran is different from Arab world!

“This is the first time I’ve been in Iran. People outside Iran have a different image from the country. For most people of the world, Iran is a part of the Arab world but it is not the case with the place.

“I imagine Iran as a conservative traditional country but after my visit, I find it as an open society in comparison to Arab countries.

Like Western countries, women work as much as men in Iran. The country boasts centuries of civilization and culture. It houses to several historical monuments, many of them are on UNESCO list,” he explained

“A wide range of cultures exist in Iran. But, we discover these things once we come to Iran. People who do not visit the country do not know about that.

“TSA enables you to see tourism as an industry precisely. Only by this way you can compare importance of tourism with other industries like petrochemical or transportation.

“I have heard that petroleum industry in Iran is very important and in order to be able to understand how much it is important, you should measure the size of that. Once you have good data, you can compare them,” he said.

“In industries like petroleum, the revenue depends on selling. Market price goes high, it is good, and otherwise it is not beneficial. So it has fluctuation! I think tourism, as an industry, usually has close relationship with nation’s economic GDP. In most countries, it has positive economic affect in comparison to other products,” he said.

Hara said that Iran can be optimistic about the future of tourism as an industry.

------------ Iran needs destination marketing organization!

“Iran has a huge potentiality for being on the top of tourism destinations. Also, at the same time, some major steps should be taken for improvement of marketing,” he suggested.

“You export oil to some countries of the world, but they come back to you if the oil you offer is cheaper than other countries, because oil is a commodity. But look at tourism! Tourists spend money in different cities and they say I have wonderful experience in Iran and I will come back to spend more money but it is not the case about oil,” he added.

He suggested providing some destination marketing organization to boost Iran as a tourism destination in the world.

“The organization, which already exists in many countries, can correct the image of Iran as well. If the image of people who visited a country is different from what other people think, then the image should be corrected,” he said.

----------- Training human resources as soon as possible!

He said that Iran suffers from a lack of human resources in the field of tourism industry.

“Providing infrastructures is as important as attracting tourists,” he stressed.

“As a foreign visitor, I think Iran definitely have to grow human resources. People who work in hotels and taxi drivers have to be trained to be able to talk and accommodate foreigners.”