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    Iran’s tourism industry struggles to meet growing demand - Al-monitor

    Iran - Iran’s tourism industry struggles to meet growing demand - Al-monitor


    Iran’s tourism industry struggles to meet growing demand
    By Alireza Ramezani
    Publish Date: Jan17, 2014

    TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has witnessed more than 30% growth in tourism since last year. Administration officials say it’s just the beginning of a boom in the country’s untapped sector, which is set to create millions of jobs and bring billions of dollars to the economy in the near future.

    Tourism in Iran came under the spotlight after The Guardian placed the country, early in January, as No. 11 on its list of “Holiday hotspots: where to go in 2014.” The British newspaper wrote, “There hasn't been a better time for Westerners to visit Iran since the 1979 revolution,” noting that the country is safer than ever thanks to the “November’s historic nuclear agreement” between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany.

    Financial TimesThe Telegraph and Los Angeles Times all shared the same idea that the nuclear deal sent a signal to the world that Iran is a hot, and now safe, travel destination to travel. The Los Angeles Timesreported on Dec. 30 that the nuclear deal “has already produced a boomlet in American travel to Iran.”

    Iranian government data, however, shows that the increase in the number of visiting foreigners began last spring, when no deal had been signed, and former populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still in office.

    Some experts believe the data shows that the growth in tourism owes much to the recent regional developments rather than the new government’s policies. Ebrahim Pourfaraj, chairman of the Iranian Tourism Operators Association, says the political crises in main tourist hubs in the Middle East — Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia and Libya — over the past few years caused global attention to shift to Iran, a country with 16 sites mentioned on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and a relatively safer place than its regional rivals. 

    But the same experts acknowledge that the Geneva deal did accelerate the growth pace of the Iranian tourism.

    Tourism policy

    Since being elected, President Hassan Rouhani has several times announced that his administration has planned to expand the tourism sector. He has even set a goal of more than doubling, to 10 million, the number of foreigners who visit Iran each year. That means the sector would be able to create up to 4 million jobs — a response to the worrying unemployment rate of 18.5%.

    Iran's “20-Year Vision” document projects the country will attract the ambitious number of 20 million foreign tourists each year by 2015.

    But the question is: How likely is it for the government to achieve the set goals?

    Economic steps

    Among the main problems tourists are facing in Iran is the failure of domestic banks to provide services to foreign clients. It’s rarely possible for visiting foreigners to have access to their original accounts since sanctions have restrained international banking operations in Iran. As a result, most visitors have no alternative but carrying cash with them.

    Political steps

    Tourists from some countries need no visa while others can buy a visa on arrival. For many foreign visitors, however, it has been a “stringent” process. If a surge in demand is to happen in Europe and the United States, the Foreign Ministry, in close cooperation with security organizations, should make a drastic move.

    Najafi says the government is dividing world countries into three groups: Those not requiring a visa; those not requiring a visa if visiting as part of a tour group; and countries that would be able to obtain a visa on arrival. He says most Western countries would likely be included in the second or third categories. 

    Cultural steps

    The cultural conflict could be neutralized, to large extent, by millions of Iranians believed to be hospitable and friendly by most standards.

    As predicted, Iran has a great potential to turn into a tourism hotspot, but to turn ideas into reality, the Rouhani administration needs to be more realistic and determined, and make every effort to address not only the economic and financial problems, but also the political and cultural barriers.

    Abridged from: Al-monitor



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    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.