Iran should jump-start COVID-hit tourism under health protocols: VP

September 13, 2020 - 18:54

TEHRAN – First Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri on Saturday tasked the tourism ministry with implementing strategic plans to help jump-start the country’s traveling sector ravaged by the coronavirus over the past couple of months.

Today, almost all businesses have been activated in compliance with health protocols, which have been defined by national headquarters for fighting the spread of the coronavirus, Jahangiri said. “This way, the tourism ministry, and the national headquarters should deepen cooperation to formulate necessary health instructions needed for the tourism sector under health instructions.”

The first vice-president made the remarks in a meeting with Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan and his deputy for tourism Vali Teymouri in attendance.

“Today is a tough time for the tourism industry as the global medical professionals recommend people to stay home and not to travel. This trend, however, has caused the tourism industry to suffer abundant financial losses,” Jahanhgiri explained.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the senior official pointed out to vast tourism potential that the country holds, saying “Iran has unique characteristics in are arenas of civilization and history…. and many tourists around the world are interested in visiting nature, forests, beaches, and other religious, historical and archaeological  attractions of the country.”

Referring to the negative impacts of the U.S. sanctions on the national economy, he said that while the country is facing restrictions on foreign currency exchange and sanctions on its oil sales, the development of tourism industry can meet the need to foreign currency to some extent and yet increase people’s incomes, and help create job opportunities.

He also appreciated efforts made by the tourism ministry for developing a strategic plan for the development of the national tourism industry, which is recently gained ratification from the cabinet.

The ministry of tourism should try its best to implement the strategic plan as soon as possible, Jahangiri noted.

Mounesan, for his part, delivered a report on tourism and hospitality sectors of the country during the coronavirus era and said: “Due to the fact that many provinces of the country have traditional destinations for domestic and foreign tourists, the closure of the tourism industry in the country as one of the impacts of the virus pandemic, has caused serious damage to people’s living and to travel agencies, hotels, eco-tourism units…. in those provinces.”

The tourism sector of the country has suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic till the month of Mordad (started July 22), Mounesan said.

Last week, Jahangiri declared the strategic plan, giving all related bodies, organizations, and institutes a clear mandate to assume defined duties to bolster the country’s tourism sector through coordinated policymaking by executive bodies, academics, and the private sector.

The strategic plan is based on Article 100 of the Fifth Five-Year National Development Plan (2016-2021), and it pursues sustainable tourism development through coordinated, inter-sectoral, and integrated policies with the cooperation of executive bodies, university professors, the private sector activists, according to a governmental press release. The plan also touches upon elements such as tourism management, business environment issues, tourism infrastructure, manpower, cultural concerns, and issues relating to foreign travelers, as well as spheres of advertising and marketing.

Defining main policies in the field of tourism, creating the ground for developing a national tourism development plan, implementing goals most dynamically and efficiently possible, a more competitive environment, as well as empowering local tourism, natural and cultural tourism are among the other objectives of the strategic plan.

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has plunged the travel and tourism industry and economy in the global scene over that past couple of months as passenger traffic on airlines and hotel occupancy rates have fallen off a cliff compared to the same periods previous years. However, some experts expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

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).

AFM/MG

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