Iranian tourism growth grinds to a halt
Iranian tourism industry, which up until September 11 was recording impressive growth rates, is expected to face a 50 percent downturn in the near future, Deputy Culture Minister and Head of Iran's Touring and Tourism Organization (TTO) Mohammad Mo'azzedin told the official IRNA news agency last week.
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and the fear of US strikes against neighboring Afghanistan dealt a fatal blow to tourism. Iran has reported a tourist cancellation rate of 80 percent last month, second in the region only to Jordan. Mo'azzedin added that previous estimates of two million tourists expected to visit Iran this year, have now been cut by half.
In official statistics recently released, the country recorded tourist arrivals of 1.7 million between March 2000 and March 2001. In comparison, between March 1996 and March 1997 only 570,000 foreign tourists visited the country.
The Iranian government has slowly built an $850 million annual tourist business centered on Persian and Islamic sites. "Despite the negative image portrayed by the media about the alleged multitude of restrictions in Iran, the country has recorded an annual growth of 28 percent in tourist arrivals in just five years of developing the industry, making it the first country in the world to record such a huge increase,” Nasrollah Mostofi, deputy secretary-general of Iran’s Tourism Supreme Council, told IRNA .
He asserted that the unprecedented boom in this industry over the past few years was the direct result of President Mohammad Khatami's detente foreign policies, adding that since Khatami started his second term in August 2001, the industry has witnessed a 20 percent growth rate, only to meet a full blown crisis a month later.
The industry’s weak points, according to Iranian TTO officials, lay in the West's negative impression of Iran, weak advertising of its tourist attractions and the absence of services and facilities to meet tourists' needs, such as credit cards. — (Menareport.com).
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)