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2 Sep, 2014

Iran Enjoying Tourism Boom

Tehran, Sept 1, IRNA — Experts believe Iranˈs main treasure is hidden in its tourism sector. Investment in this sector could help disseminate Iranian culture and customs to other nations.

This investment is necessitated by the fact that Iran is a four-season nation with numerous historical and natural attractions.

Recently, President Hassan Rouhani addressed high-ranking managers of Iranˈs Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO).

Rouhani cautioned against any misbehavior toward domestic and foreign tourists.

ˈWe can introduce our Iranian-Islamic culture to foreign tourists through good behavior, observing Islamic ethics and upholding national security. We should behave politely and hospitably with tourists, particularly foreign visitors,ˈ he said.

On the role of cultural heritage in shaping a resistance economy, the president called for improving the role of ICHHTO in generating jobs and earning forex revenues.

After the new government took office, several good events led to the rise in the arrival of foreign tourists.

The first one was the change in negative attitudes toward Iran. The second one was the rising feeling of security in Iran.

The third one was the creation of a climate of confidence among foreign tourists to ravel to Iran. The fourth one was Iranˈs bright future after removing unjust sanctions.

Tour operators believe foreign tourists consider the environment more appropriate for travel to Iran.

According to Masoud Soltanifar, the head of ICHHTO, the arrival of European tourists rose by 240 percent during March 21-May 5 against the same period of lasy year.

ˈThis is due to the new governmentˈs policy to boost tourism industry,ˈ he said.

Soltanifar also gave news about the 400-percent rise in the arrival of American tourists, attributing this to the nuclear deal with the six world powers and the pursuit of détente in global diplomacy.

Morteza Rahmani Movahhed, the deputy head of ICHHTO, said the number of tourists who visited Iran during March 21-June 21 grew by 215 percent compared with the same period of last year.

Movahhed added that only 10,000 foreign tourists visited Iran during March 21-June 21, 2013.

According to statistics, the number of tourists from Italy, Spain and Scandinavian nations doubled compared to last year and the number of religious tourists from Iraq has risen to 1.6 million.

ˈWe have sent letters to the government to make changes in the annual calendar of summits and festivals,ˈ he said.

Yazd tourism

According to figures released by Yazd Tourism Department, over 1.7 million tourists traveled to this desert province during 2005-13, of whom 195,000 were foreign nationalities.

Yazdˈs tourism industry entered a new era during the current government.

Demands for travel to Yazd have also increased. This historical city has turned into one of the top tourist destinations.

Some travel agencies say their capacities have been filled for Yazdˈs tours.

Yazdˈs governor general said, ˈThis year, we witnessed a 93-percent rise in the arrival of domestic and foreign tourists to Yazd compared to last year. All Yazd hotels have been booked during March 21-Sept. 22.ˈ

Seyyed Mohammad Mir-Mohammadi added that tourism industry is one of the major axes of provincial economic and cultural development.

ˈWe have considered tourism sector as one of our major concerns,ˈ he said.

Mir-Mohammadi also said 2017 is the Year of Welcoming Yazd and hoped that the province could be a competent host for tourists by preparing the infrastructures and organizing historical monuments and natural attractions.

Mohammad Mehdi Sherafat, director general of Yazd Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, said since the current government took the office, the tourism boom has started.

Sherafat also said, ˈWe do our best to promote tourism goals of Yazd province.ˈ

He called classifying and issuing identity certificates for tourism regions and attracting investors as top priorities of Yazd Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department.

ˈBoosting handicrafts will help develop the province,ˈ he said.

Sherafat said if handicraft sector thrives, it will increase home-based jobs and boost tourism.

ˈWe seek to revive handicrafts. Yazdˈs handicrafts appeal to tourists,ˈ he said.

Hotels booked

The rise in the number of foreign tourists also preserves the interest of hoteliers. All four- and five-star hotels in Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd and Kashan have been booked by Nov. 21.

Nine four- and five-star hotels in Shiraz, five four- and five-star hotels in Isfahan, four four-star hotels in Yazd and 70 hotels in the form of ancient houses have been booked by foreign tourists.

Jamshid Hamzehzadeh, the head of Iran Hotel Management Society, said four- and five-star hotels in Shiraz, Isfahan and Yazd have been booked in 2014.

Hamzehzadeh called the trend of the arrival of foreign tourists to Iran as positive.

ˈThe presence of tourists in various cities is obvious. However, Iran Hotel Management Society does not have any statistics regarding hotel occupancy rate. The Tourism Department can receive data from Hotel Union of each provinceˈ.

Mohammad Hossein Mohtajollah, the head of Yazd Hotel Management Union, said the number of foreign tourists in the province has grown between 100 and 300 percent since March 21.

Mohtajollah said all hotel rooms of Yazd province have been booked by Dec. 21, which used to be occupied only between 10 and 15 percent in the past.

However, the new wave of foreign tourist arrival following the 2013 presidential election and the improvement of Iranˈs ties with other nations have reducd the feeling of insecurity and increased their trust in traveling to Iran.

Mostafa Fatemi, the deputy head of Yazd Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, said the provinces of Isfahan, Yazd, and Fars are top destinations for foreign tourists.

Fatemi noted that Yazd Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department seeks to prepare the infrastructures to attract a higher number of tourists to Yazd province.

The province hosted 29,853 domestic tourists and 6,647 foreign tourists during March 21-April 21.

Yazd hosted 19,086 and 10,936 domestic and foreign visitors respectively during April 21-May 21, and hosted 16,960 and 4,461 domestic and foreign tourists during May 21-June 21.