Iran mulling to join Blue Shield to protect cultural heritage 

November 17, 2020 - 17:35

TEHRAN – Iran is mulling to join the Committee of the Blue Shield – an international organization committed to the protection of heritage across the world, Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan said on Monday.

He made the remarks in a meeting with Vienna’s ambassador to Tehran, Stefan Scholz, who has recently paid visits to several Iranian provinces to follow up on the establishment of a Blue Shield national committee in the country.

The Blue Shield network, often referred to as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, works globally to protect cultural heritage in emergency situations. 

This includes museums, monuments, and archaeological sites, as well as natural areas and intangible heritage.

Cultural cooperation

Referring to the cultural cooperation between the two countries, Mounesan noted that the coronavirus pandemic shouldn’t be allowed to reduce holding joint cultural events and programs.

“Considering the current situation, joint cultural events could be held observing strict health protocols.” 

Elsewhere in his remarks, the minister pointed to the flourishing health tourism in the country and said that although Iran is under lots of pressure due to the unfair sanctions, which also include medicine and food, the country enjoys good doctors and medical equipment that makes it a favorite destination for even Europeans as the cost of treatment and services is cheap, while the quality is high.  

Despite the sanctions, the country witnessed an increase in foreign tourists’ arrivals before the outbreak of the coronavirus, he noted.

He also noted that Iran was introduced by United Nations World Tourism Organization as the world’s second-fastest-growing tourist destination in 2019.

Pointing to ecotourism as a new branch of tourism in Iran, he said that there are over 2200 eco-lodge units across the country, which generate job opportunities for the local people.

U.S. sanctions ‘no obstacle’

Last October, Scholz said that he believes U.S. sanctions against Iran will be no obstacle in the path of Austrian tourists to travel to the Islamic Republic.

“Austrian arrivals in Iran are not affected by the sanctions and threats,” the envoy told ISNA.

In an interview with the Tehran Times last September, the ambassador referred to commonalities and the history of relations between the two nations, saying “Austria and Iran have a long history in common. It’s an incredible special profile that distinguishes us from many other countries. We have 700 years of documented contacts, 500 years of partnership, and about 60 years of full diplomatic relations.”

Corona may cause critical situation

In October, Mounesan warned that Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism will be in a critical situation if the crises caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus continue.

Iran’s tourism has suffered a loss of 12 trillion rials (some $2.85 billion) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, he said in August.

“The tourism industry of the country was growing and progressing well but unfortunately, it has faced the coronavirus outbreak, which brought the industry into a standstill.”

“Many tourism projects have been completed, or are being implemented, showing that a very good capacity has been created in the field of tourism in the country and [this trend] should not be stopped,” he explained.

Referring to the investment of 1,370 trillion rials (around $32 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials) in the tourism sector he added that this volume of investment indicates that investors recognize the growing tourism sector as a new economy in the country and have high hopes for it.

The minister said the coronavirus pandemic should not 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.”

Optimistic forecasts, however, 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.


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