Corona is a reality but it cannot stop traveling, tourism minister says

August 5, 2020 - 13:22

TEHRAN – Iran’s tourism minister on Tuesday said that it is true that the coronavirus pandemic is a [bitter] reality but it cannot bring traveling to a complete standstill.

“Corona is a fact, but can the virus stop tourism? Certainly not. For us, the coronavirus is a new experience in dealing with crises that teaches tourism experts around the world how to deal with such a disaster, and thankfully governments are turning this into an opportunity for better planning,” Ali-Asghar Mounesan said, ISNA reported.

He made the remarks in a video showcased on Tuesday evening during a prize-giving ceremony in which a select of tourism businesses, tour operators, investors, and hoteliers were honored.

“Tourism experts will certainly find a way to deal with this great crisis. As if the measures so far been taken in Iran and all over the world show that we will surely succeed [to make a big rebound] through proper smart planning.”

Addressing the attendees to the ceremony, the minister explained; “Investments and the launch of new projects in the tourism sector have been increased dramatically underway across the country. Of these, about 600 are hotel-related projects that show a very promising future, conveying a message that investors see profitable prospects for Iran’s tourism.”

Elsewhere in remarks, the official said “We are not saying that tourism should [merely] replace oil [revenues], but tourism can become first [sector of] economy in the country replacing revenues [currently being come from [the export of] mineral and raw resources.”

“Tourism can create an easy way to earn and create employment by tapping into the existing historical and natural capacities of the country.”

Mounesan has long been attaching importance to tourism as a source of revenue, which could substitute petro-dollars. Back in 2017, he said: “Every single foreign tourist visiting Iran spends an average of $1,200, bringing in income as much as exporting 30 barrels of oil.”

Referring to the pandemic and its impacts on the traveling sector, he said: “All the economists in the world have predicted [dramatic] changes and developments for many once-prosperous sectors….. However, the technology is advancing, and smart solutions… will certainly bring changes in the world's economic sectors.”

In June, the United Nations World Tourism Organization praised efforts made by Iran’s tourism ministry to manage the travel industry during the coronavirus pandemic. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a letter to Mounesan that the country's measures have truly earned plaudits to mitigate the impact on tourism.

“A series of measures that the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts of Iran has taken, in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations of UNWTO, has truly earned plaudits as an effective practice to mitigate the impact on tourism,” the letter reads.

Some experts believe that the coronavirus pandemic may turn tours and travels into luxury items as observing health protocols will raise the cost of travel in the country. Mohammad Ali Vaqefi, the vice president of the Iranian Tour Operators Association, warned earlier in June that with the continuation of the coronavirus outbreak, tourists may prefer individual travel rather than tours, adding that they may also choose to go on a trip by their vehicles and stay in tents or in the nature instead of hotels.

In the global scene, part of the new travel puzzle is the jet-set mindset focusing on tough hygiene care and social distancing as cardinal guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus. So the average expenditure will be raised for a typical traveler particularly inbound passengers so lesser ones can afford to buy privacy and space and safer travel amenities.

Meanwhile, deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri, has said the tourism industry of Iran will get back on the right track sooner than expected thanks to measures taken to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

“I believe that tourism industry of the country will get back on the right track far sooner than generally expected thanks to the measures taken to deal with the spread of coronavirus in tourist destinations, hotels, stopovers, and all the centers which are affiliated with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts,” Teymouri said in an interview with the Tehran Times.

Iran expects to reap a bonanza from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 24 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, it aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025. The latest available data show eight million tourists visited the Islamic Republic during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2019).


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