Ecotourism, an opportunity for travel lovers during coronavirus pandemic

January 23, 2021 - 17:30

TEHRAN –It’s been almost a year since the beginning of the global outbreak of the coronavirus, which forced the world to stop and drop everything.

The coronavirus pandemic has made people have their place of work fully or partly closed. Restrictions on daily life have led to the closure of many companies, which increases global unemployment.

Different sectors of people’s lives have been hit by the virus, however, the experts believe that one of the worst-hit fields is tourism.

With travel restrictions all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought tourism to a near-standstill, which has also caused accommodation centers major damage.

In such a situation it seems that ecotourism is an opportunity for the people, who are fed up with staying home and quarantine, to look for a safe way to freshen up.

As a four-season country with pristine and beautiful nature in different parts of the country, Iran has a lot to offer nature lovers and eco-tourists.

Eco-lodge units in rural areas and in the heart of nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, smoke, and pollution, could free people from the chaos and turmoil of modern life amid the outbreak of the virus, of course by observing strict health protocols.

In recent years, several historical mansions and rural houses across the country have been repurposed into eco-lodge units with the aim of attracting more domestic and foreign tourists.

The houses represent the indigenous culture, local customs, traditions, and stories, while the guests are served delicious food with local ingredients.

The growing tendency of tourists to experience indigenous and local cultures has made them want to get closer to natural and indigenous living conditions, experiencing the old-fashioned way of life, considering that staying in these eco-lodge units are much cheaper than other accommodation centers. 

Last January, Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Director Behrouz Omrani announced that Iran has been constructing hundreds of eco-lodge guesthouses over the past couple of years to meet the demands of rising eco-travelers and sightseers.

“At present, issuing guidelines for eco-tourism development is on the agenda. Historical villages are amongst target destinations for eco-tourism development,” the official said.

Iran’s tourism body said in 2018 that 2,000 eco-lodges will be constructed nationwide until 2021. Experts say each eco-lodge unit generates jobs for seven to eight people on average so that the scheme could create 160,000 jobs.

Having a very diverse natural setting, Iran offers varied excursions to nature lovers. Sightseers may live with a nomad or rural family or enjoy an independent stay. The country is home to abundant historical mansions, caravanserais, bathhouses, madrasas, and other massive monuments, which can buttress its budding tourism and hospitality sectors if managed appropriately and refurbished properly.

Experts say each eco-lodge unit generates jobs for seven to eight people on average so that the scheme could create 160,000 jobs.

Back in September, Iran’s tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan offered “smart and responsible traveling” as a workable solution for holidaymakers to get assured of safe traveling during the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, the tourism 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.”

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).

ABU/MG

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