Mass, unplanned travels not approved: tourism minister

November 9, 2020 - 21:21

TEHRAN –Mass, unplanned and irresponsible travels are not approved to take place during the coronavirus era, Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan said on Monday.

“The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused damage to the tourism industry in Iran and [other parts of] the world in such a way that according to statistics, 50 million people are directly and indirectly exposed to unemployment due to the virus spread in the global scene,” Mounesan added.

Smart and responsible traveling should replace "do not travel” recommendations, the minister stressed, adding: “In our country, Corona has caused problems in the tourism industry and the worrying point is the continuation of this trend.”

“We are well aware of what the National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control proclaims [the health protocols], hence as a proposal, we have formulated some smart, responsible travel packages by the implementation of which we could have secure travels

“Certainly, mass and unplanned trips are not approved by us because it is not beneficial for the tourism industry as well….. the opinions and directives of our friends in the Health Ministry, and the National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control are all right but travels in the form of tours and under the full supervision of this ministry is a suggestion that can be realized.”

The minister also cited examples of similar models being practiced in other countries, saying “Some countries, including a number of neighboring ones, have activated their tourism sector….. In some countries, a label has been affixed to some hotels indicating which particular hotels are safe and all health protocols are being strictly enforced.”

“Recently, during his visits to several provinces, the health minister [Saeed Namaki] expressed satisfaction with the health status of some hotels and confirmed the observance of health protocols in them.”

Mounesan has repeatedly announced that his ministry is in full coordination with the Ministry of Health for strictly implementing health protocols in travel destinations, hospitably centers, and museums, amongst others, underlining that “people’s health is our first priority.”

Back in September, Mounesan said strict health protocols can be executed and monitored within package tours both for international or domestic ones, adding “Boutique hotels are amongst victims of the pandemic fears. Boutique hotels are on the verge of being bankrupt…. In normal situations, boutique hotels are usually overbooked for the next six months, and the Iranians could hardly fit in.”

“Besides, many historical inns and caravanserais have been restored and repurposed to be guest houses. Moreover, many eco-lodge units have come on stream over the past couple of years.”

Mounesan announced in August that the number of foreign travelers to Iran had drastically plunged due to the global coronavirus pandemic as the Islamic Republic registered only 74 visits during the spring season. “Iran’s [inbound] tourism came to almost zero and the country had 74 foreign tourists in the first three months of this [Iranian calendar] year (started on March 20), due to corona outbreak.”

Tourism [industry of Iran] was growing before the corona [outbreak], its revenues reached $11.7 billion in 2019, which accounted for 2.8% of GDP, near the average share of tourism in the world GDP, which was 3.2 percent, the minister explained.

He said 8.7 million foreign nationals visited Iran during the past [Iranian] year (1398), adding that Iran was ranked as the second fastest-growing country in tourism based on data compiled by the World Tourism Organization. “On the onset of coronavirus, tourism faced a sharp decline in the world including our country. So that in the first three months of the current [Iranian] year the number of foreign tourists dropped to 74 --- it was reached almost zero!.”

The minister reminded that some 2.3 million foreign nationals visited the country during the spring of last year that showed a 40.66 percent increase year on year. The country hosted 1,443,551 million travelers during the same period a year earlier. Talking about losses to the travel and hospitality industry of the country, the minister said that the virus decease has caused damage to many countries around the world, and our country’s travel sector has so far suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials).

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. Rooted in ancient Persian civilization, the nation that has survived numerous alien invasions and natural disasters over its rich history while maintaining its appeal to local and foreign tourists.

AFM/MG

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