Iran's Tourism Industry: It's Diversity, Regulations, Value and Economic Opportunities
The problem with Iran's tourism industry is that it's very fragmented and most infrastructure is outdated from the 1970's. Here are some insights into the workings of the Iran tourism sector including: How it's regulated, tourism types, its current value, and potential opportunities.
Iran's Tourism Regulations (ICHTO)
The (ICHTO) regulates the majority of the national museums, cultural sites, travel agencies and general codes of ethics as the name implies. There are generally three (3) travel agency licenses to operate: Class A (Ticketing), Class B (Tours), and Class C (Pilgrimage). While the majority of travel agencies have only Class B licenses, only a very few have Class A. Each agency is restricted to operate up to 2 offices in Iran, this promotes competition amongst the 2000+ travel agencies around Iran. While most agencies are established in Tehran, there are agencies in Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd and other regional areas to deliver high quality local services in each province. This has created a large travel network throughout Iran, with agencies operating in their specialized fields and outsourcing certain services only where required.
Iran's Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization is responsible for the establishment, development and operation of tourism facilities in Iran. This includes planning for repairs, and extension of tourism facilities through direct investment, providing loans and entering into partnership with the private sector. The ICHTO also issues licenses and supervises the establishment and administration of hotels, restaurants and travel agencies, while also provides qualifications and ratings of these units.
Cultural Tourism in Iran
Until now, Iran has 19 designated UNESCO listed sites including:
Persepolis, Nagshe Rustum and Pasargad the complex of palaces with 2,500 year-Old Persian reliefs,
The ancient civilizations around Shahr-i Sokhta, Cultural Landscape of Maymand, Susa, and Chogha Zanbil from the Elamite Empire more than 3,500 years ago,
The exquisite Persian Gardens in Iran, influencing gardens from India all the way to Spain,
The early architecture and engineering at Bam and its Cultural Landscape and Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System,
The cuneiform translations of the Bisotun Inscriptions,
The evolution of Persian royalty at the Golestan Palace,
The spiritual evolution at the Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh Ensemble, Soltaniyeh Dome, Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan, Armenian Christian Ensembles, Takht-e Soleyman from stories of Son of David,
The scientific developments at Gonbad-e Qabus,
The trading centers around Meidan Emam, and Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex,
And many more coming.
There have also been 28 messengers of God that have passed through Iran leaving special tombs. The Iranian government has established a number of museums which include:
• In addition, Tehran’s Contemporary Art Museum showcases over 7,000 texts in both Persian and English as part of a specialized library.
The city of Mashhad, visited by the Muslims to pay homage to the Holy Shrine of am Reza, the largest mosque in the world by area which accommodates 20 million pilgrims and tourists every year. Other notable holy sites include the Danial-e Nabi Mausoleum, one the messengers of God in shosa,
Shrine of Hazrat-e Masumeh, the sister of and the Chak Chakoo Fire Temple, which is famous for the legendary dripping water that falls from surrounding rock formations.
In total, Iran boasts 28 natural parks, 43 protected wildlife zones, and 166 protected areas, committing nearly 5% of its land-an area of 8 million hectares-to ecotourism and the preservation of natural resources. Among the most popular destinations for eco-holiday makers are Golestan National Park, Kavir National Park, Lar Protected Area, Bakhtegan Lake, and Bamou National Park.
Iran’s natural beauty and conservation efforts are nothing short of impressive. Stunning waterfalls, deserts, forests, lagoons, caves, swamps, and lakes represent a diverse array of climatic zones and landforms, comparable only to the continental US.
Sea and Coastline:
Due to the extensive bus network and air and rail infrastructure in the country, domestic tourists most often travel to visit friends and family during the summer months. Given the country’s abundant natural beauty and coastal destinations, approximately 24% of domestic tourists traveled for sightseeing or entertainment purposes in 2011. However, medical tourism and pilgrimage make up an additional 23% of travel throughout the country.
In addition to beaches 700 Km alongside the Caspian Sea are the most popular destinations for domestic tourism.
Iran Tourism Current Size
A large majority of Iranians frequently travel within the country on a yearly basis, and although they do not typically inject as much money per capita into the economy as foreign tourists are known to contribute, the development of transportation and communications infrastructure is fueled by the large amount of domestic traffic.
Officials previously stated that Iran has in recent years earned about US$1bn a year from tourism. Close to 1.8% of national employment is generated in the tourism sector. Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.
The overall goal of the Tourism industry is to attract 2% of the world’s tourists, or 20 million people, to Iran by 2025. In 2011, the country earned approximately $6 billion from the tourism sector, and in 2013 analysts expect the tourism industry to grow by a significant 135%.
Iran's Tourism Potential
Areas considered for further expansion in the tourism sector include:
- Coastline development
- Restoration of historical relics,
- Creating handicraft townships,
- Developing affordable health tourism (e.g. water therapy),
- Investment into Iran's free trade zones (exempt from taxes for up to 20 years),
- Expanding the bus, train, and airline routes through the region,
- Developing the facilities around the 19 UNESCO Sites, and supporting new ones.
For example in 2012, there were 30,000 people come to Iran to receive medical treatment.
Tourism in Iran: Plans for The Future
As part of Vision 2025, the government aims for Iran to achieve a stronger position among global tourism destinations, setting a target of 7.5 million foreign arrivals. Although the number of international arrivals has been steadily increasing-up from 2.2 million people in 2009 to 3.6 million from in 2011 at a growth rate of 58% domestic tourism is a key segment of the sector overall.
Iran's '20-Year Vision' document projects investment of over $32 billion in the country's tourism sector and targets 20 million tourists by 2025. In order to encourage domestic and foreign direct investment in this sector, the 50 per cent tax exemption previously granted to tourism enterprises has been extended to include five-star hotels. Tariffs for utilities comply with industrial ones.
Need to Know
For a general directory for 95% of travel agencies in Iran, the below link is very useful.
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