Persian new year: expert warns about overtourism

March 14, 2022 - 22:10

Tehran – An expert has warned travel insiders and officials about a potential overtourism during the upcoming Iranian new year vacation which starts on March 21.

The Noruz holidays are expected to experience a boom in domestic tourism following two years of travel restrictions, ISNA quoted Amir Pouyan Rafiei-Shad as saying on Monday. 

Some tourism destinations, however, may face problems or crises due to some deficiencies in their infrastructure, he added. 

Travel demand for Khorasan Razavi, Gilan, Mazandaran, Fars, and Isfahan provinces, as well as Iranian southern cities, usually increases around Noruz, however, it is not clear if these destinations will be prepared to welcome Noruz visitors due to the interruption in tourism caused by the coronavirus outbreak, he noted. 

Travel demand to southern cities, Kish Island, and Chabahar has been high for Noruz, Shiraz hotels are fully booked to 80 percent capacity, but the volume of travel for Noruz 1401 is still far less than it was two years before the pandemic, he explained. 

Although foreign trips especially to Turkey and Dubai has been in decline, it still remains in high demand, he mentioned. 

“Even though there has been an increase in the exchange rate and a decrease in the number of flights and consequently an increase in air travel expenses, seeking holiday vacations abroad is still very popular during the Noruz holiday.” 

He also stated that more studies, more accurate information, and more statistics from relevant organizations are needed to better analyze the impact of these trips on the destination community.

Back in January, the deputy tourism minister Ali Darabi announced that Iran needs to get ready for a probable “tsunami of tourism” once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

“Despite not knowing how the coronavirus outbreak will evolve in the future, we ought to plan on hosting tourists during the upcoming holidays of Noruz (Iranian new year).”

Travel and tourism will increase as vaccination becomes a priority around the world and lifestyles align, the official added.

In January, an official with the tourism ministry announced that the Iranian tourism industry has suffered $233m losses due to COVID restrictions over the past two years.

“Travel is not believed to be the cause of the outbreak, rather it is a lack of adherence to health protocols that have caused the outbreak, but people canceled their trips anyway, causing major damage to the tourist facilities across the country,” he explained.

The tourism ministry is preparing safe and smart travel packages for Iranian holidaymakers and travelers during Noruz, he noted.

Nearly 70 percent of the population has been vaccinated, so these trips may be able to partially compensate for the damage done to tourism facilities over the past two years, he mentioned.

Last year the tourism ministry announced that the tourism of the country was growing before the coronavirus 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.

Iran was ranked as the second fastest-growing country in tourism based on data compiled by the World Tourism Organization.

Experts 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.

The Islamic Republic 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 26 are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. 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.

 ABU/AFM  

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