Restoring tourism flow far preferable to profitability, Iranian expert says

November 21, 2021 - 20:13

TEHRAN – Iranian Tour Operators Director Ebrahim Pourfaraj has said the restoration of tourism flow to the country is very important for Iranian tour operators and travel insiders.

“At the moment, we are not thinking about revenues, but we are looking for the beginning of the tourist flow to the country and renew our links [with international fellows],” Pourfaraj said on Saturday.

His comments came after months of steep recession triggered by massive coronavirus restrictions which led many travel insiders, hoteliers, and tour operators towards bankruptcy, unemployment, debts, and the prospects of not being competitive on the international level.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he expressed gratitude to efforts made by Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi and his tourism minister Ezzatollah Zarghami to reissue tourist visas since late October.

Furthermore, Pourfaraj said that the Islamic Republic must rebuild trust with the global tourism market, referring to the high levels of health security and vaccination that the country has achieved against the coronavirus.  

He said some of his colleagues have commenced talks in various tourism fields with target markets of China, Japan, Russia, and some European countries.

Earlier this month, he announced, “It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embassies, economic and cultural attaches, and ministries of health and tourism to inform the world about Iran’s [great achievements in] public vaccinations.”

As mentioned by Pourfaraj, Iran has made its best to maintain contact with global tourism markets and companies that worked with Iran in the past, especially since virtual communication and meetings have thrived.

“Following the resumption of the tourist visa, visitors from Russia and France have traveled to Iran and we are currently expecting a smaller number of tourists in Iran due to the current situation in the world,” he explained.

Although there are requests for traveling to Iran in the current year (2021), most travel agencies and tour operators believe that the flow will go back to normal in the next year, he said.

The expert believes that international tourism flow to Iran will return to normal in 2022. “There is speculation that in the spring of 2022, which is a high season of traveling in Iran, the number of inbound passengers and trips would be increasing.”

Last November, the World Tourism Organization announced that international tourist arrivals to Iran plunged 72% during the first eight months of 2020 when compared to 2019, highlighting the severe impact of COVID-19 as the main factor.

 Some experts believe Iran is still somehow “unknown” for many potential travelers due to Western “media war”. Several estimates have been released so far on the extent of the tourism-related losses incurred by the pandemic. Only months into the outbreak, Zarghami’s predecessor, Ali Asghar Mounesan, lamented that the number of foreign travelers to Iran was drastically plunged due to the pandemic.

“Tourism of the country was growing before the corona [outbreak], its revenues reached $11.7 billion in 2019, which accounted for 2.8% of GDP, nearing the average share of tourism in the world GDP, which was 3.2 percent,” Mounesan said. He added 8.7 million foreign nationals visited Iran during the [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.

Even before the pandemic, Iran’s tourism was already grappling with some challenges, on top of those Western “media propaganda” aimed at scaring potential travelers away from the Islamic Republic. Some experts believe Iran is still somehow “unknown” for many potential travelers due to such a “media war”. They, however, consider bright prospects for the tourism sector of the country if it vigorously pursues comprehensive strategies to counter U.S.-led propaganda and strict sanctions, yet does its best to loosen tough travel regulations.

Iran is potentially a booming destination for travelers seeking cultural attractions, breathtaking sceneries, and numerous UNESCO-registered sites. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, Iran aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

AFM

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