TEHRAN–Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ministry is looking at ways to help reduce the cost of traveling for domestic holidaymakers.
“We are looking for cheap tourism as traveling is everyone’s right,” IRNA quoted the tourism minister Ezzatollah Zarghami as saying on Saturday.
“Over the past year, we have recognized 20 obstacles in the path of tourism development in the country… By strengthening domestic tourism, we would be able to boost employment and improve the national economy,” Zarghami explained in a televised speech.
“Domestic travels constitute up to 80 percent of the tourism industry in many developed countries… Domestic tourism causes the distribution of wealth, when domestic tourism is strengthened, production, employment and wealth are strengthened.”
As mentioned by Zarghami, Iran has regained its pre-coronavirus status when it comes to domestic travel. “According to the forecasts of the World Tourism Organization, global tourism will return to the normal state (before the coronavirus pandemic) by the end of 2024. However, we returned to normal earlier than the forecasts of international organizations,” the minister said.
“Domestic travel has achieved some 40 percent increase compared to the pre-coronavirus period,” Zarghami said earlier this month.
According to available data, more than 56 million passengers used busses for their overland journeys across the country during the past Iranian calendar year (ended March 20).
Data compiled by the Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization indicates that 103,364,000 passengers used overland public transportation during the past Iranian year 1400. Some half of the figure, which counts 56,453,000 passengers, opted to travel by busses for their domestic journeys, the organization said.
The Islamic Republic generated $2.5 billion in international tourism revenue over the past 12 months, mainly driven by holidaymakers from the neighboring states. In addition, traveling and tourism accounted for 3.1 percent of GDP in 2020, while the number hit 4.1 percent in 2021.
Moreover, Iran recorded about three million foreign tourist arrivals during the period. Last September, the country initiated preliminary steps for a bounce-back, restarting the issuance of tourist visas following a 20-month hiatus, and easing COVID-19 protocols for fully vaccinated passengers.
Furthermore, the ministry seeks to develop tourism ties with neighboring countries. “Our priority is to strengthen relations with neighboring countries and now we are pursuing the project of cheap overland travels with neighboring countries,” Zarghami said.
Travelers from Iraq and Afghanistan were the main source of tourism for Iran from October 23 to December 22, 2021. Over the past couple of years, neighboring Iraq has been one of Iran’s most important markets for tourism and pilgrimage. In January, the deputy tourism chief Ali-Asghar Shalbafian announced that Iran had renewed arrangements to facilitate travels for Iraqi nationals. “For Iraqi tourists visiting Iran, a new system has been implemented to ensure their safety and comfort.”
Before the pandemic, Iran’s tourism had constantly been growing, reaching more than eight million visitors in the Iranian calendar year 1398 (started March 21, 2019). That surge, however, helped prejudices to become thick and thin.
Iran’s trump card is that the country benefits from a wide variety of travel destinations ranging from seacoasts and lush green woods to towering mountains and harsh deserts. As a wallet-friendly destination with hospitable people, Iran has long been a desired destination for nature lovers, birdwatchers, powder chasers, culture devotees, pilgrims, museum-goers, foodies, adventurers, and medical travelers, to name a few.
Experts believe that mass COVID-19 vaccinations, consecutive fam tours for foreign tour operators, easing travel procedures, and fresh strategies, altogether, suggest Iran is determined to experience a tourism rebound with a greater reliance on its numerous tourist spots of which 26 are UNESCO World Heritage, and above all, its welcoming people.