Gilan province’s tourist arrivals rise 58%

January 3, 2022 - 20:0

TEHRAN –Gilan province attracted about 22 million tourists during the first nine months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-December 21, 2021), up 58 percent from a year earlier, the deputy provincial tourism chief has said. 

Over 8,000 foreign tourists have also visited the northern province during the mentioned time, which depicts a 32 percent rise compared to the same period of time in the past year, Hamidreza Azarpur announced on Monday, IRNA reported. 

In 2019, Gilan was selected as the first province to start the country’s comprehensive tourism plan, which is being developed under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The comprehensive plan is aimed to serve as a roadmap to guide tourists from all over the globe to achieve a sustainable and competitive tourism market.

However, last year, the official announced that the tourism industry of the northern province has taken over 14 trillion rials (over $47 million) hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

Efforts are being made to help the tourism sector flourish again with continuous support and injecting a government-provided supportive package, which includes low-interest loans, into the damaged sector, he added. 

Gilan is well-known for its rich Iron Age cemeteries such as Marlik that have been excavated over the past century. It was once within the sphere of influence of the successive Achaemenian, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sassanid empires that ruled Iran until the 7th century CE. The subsequent Arab conquest of Iran led to the rise of many local dynasties, and Gilan acquired an independent status that continued until 1567.

Sophisticated Rasht, capital of Gilan province, has long been a weekend escape for residents of Tehran who are looking to sample the famous local cuisine and hoping for some pluvial action – it's the largest, and wettest town in the northern region. Gilan is divided into a coastal plain including the large delta of Sefid Rud and adjacent parts of the Alborz mountain range.

Iran’s tourism 

Iran’s tourism industry has suffered a loss of some 320 trillion rials ($1.1 million) since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, ISNA reported in July 2021. 

The pandemic has also ruined more than 44,000 jobs in the once budding travel sector of the country, the report added. 

As a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran and the subsequent unemployment and financial losses, accommodation centers suffered the most. These statistics cover the period between February 2020 and the spring of 2021.

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.

So far, panels of travel experts have mapped out new marketing strategies hoping the sector would get back on its feet once again. Earlier this year, the Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ebrahim Pourfaraj asked the government to issue tourist visas for the international applicants who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “The Ministry of Health and the National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control can at least agree that the international tourists who have received the [second dose of] coronavirus vaccine would be allowed to enter Iran.”

The expert lamented that the continuation of such a trend would result in losing international tourist markets more than before. “Or at least they should make it clear so that we can respond appropriately to foreign companies and tourists to not to miss the international tourist markets more than before.”

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.

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.

ABU/MG

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