Tourism behind locked doors: Iranian companies, travel insiders promote country online

April 11, 2021 - 20:3

TEHRAN – Travel insiders, museums, and tourism fairs around the world are struggling to cope with the coronavirus lockdowns. While some have turned to online events, others are doubting whether they can survive.

Many Iranian museums, including the National Museum of Iran, started going online as the virus started affecting almost everything in the country last year.  

In a most recent case, two separate loan exhibitions featuring ancient mining and relevant documents were kicked off in Iran and Germany last Wednesday. The exhibition hosted by the German Mining Museum in Bochum is titled “Death in Salt, an Archaeological Narrative of the Land of Persia” and the other is named “Human Search for Resources.”

Furthermore, 28 Iranian travel-associated companies and businesses from the state and the private sector took part in the International Tourism Fair (ITB) Berlin held online on March 9-12.

In the realm of handicrafts, the 34th national handicrafts exhibition of Iran, which opened last year, is decided to remain online until further notice.

Experts believe that a strong presence in international virtual exhibitions could ensure the prosperity of the country’s international tourism after the end of the coronavirus crisis, while it makes the name of Iran as a tourist destination for the post-corona era in the memory of the world market.

“The presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly its the private sector, in this fair shows the dynamism of the country's tourism industry after a year of closure…., and we declare in this exhibition that we are ready to bring tourism back on track again after the epidemic is curbed,” said Vali Teymouri, the deputy tourism chief.

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Teymouri has made it more clear how traveling and hospitality sectors of the country are adopting to the virus-related limitations. He stresses the need to re-analyze target markets, redefine tourism products and improve the level of e-services.

“Defining new standards for e-services to tourists is very necessary due to the change in the general structure of travel during the coexistence with the coronavirus and post-corona world,” the official said.

The number of foreign visitors to Iran plunged 94% in the first nine months of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 20, 2020), from a year earlier, government data showed on Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on the tourism industry.

“Some 450,000 foreign travelers arrived in Iran for mainly medical or trade purposes during the first nine months of the year… tightened measures to tackle the new coronavirus has reduced international travel to the country by 94 percent,” according to the official.

The global tourism industry has been plagued by the outbreak of the coronavirus for more than a year, which is a record in the history of this industry, the official noted. In an interview with the Tehran Times, the official noted: “We need to revise marketing strategies, and to redefine tourism products by paying great attention to nature tours, rural tourism, and ecotourism, agricultural tourism as a tool to empower local communities and travel businesses.”

Tourism minister, Ali-Asghar Mounesan, announced in February that the tourism industry of the country had suffered a loss of some 220 trillion rials (about $5.2 billion at the official exchange rate of 42,000 rials per dollar) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. “Iran’s tourism has suffered some 220 trillion rials due to corona pandemic so far…. and we hope that with the production of domestic vaccines, tourism will flourish in 1400 [the new Iranian calendar year which begins on March 21],” Mounesan said.

“Over 1.5 million jobs have been lost in the tourism sector of Iran due to the COVID-19 disease…. Many of the tourism-insiders are now unemployed or they are staying at home,” Mounesan said. Iranian tourism officials are optimistic about the fate of national tourism as soon as the virus wanes.

Mounesan publicized in November that mass, unplanned travels are not approved. “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…. yet, mass or unplanned and irresponsible travels are not approved to take place during the coronavirus era.”

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.”

The minister also cited examples of similar models being practiced in other countries, saying “Some countries, including several 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.”

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.


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