The Business Year

Seyed Hassan Mousavi

IRAN - Tourism

Welcoming Tourists to Unseen Iran

Vice-President & Head, Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism

Bio

Seyed Hassan Mousavi has held career titles such as Deputy of National Center for Globalization Studies, Investment Deputy of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, CEO of SAIPA Group After-Sales Services, Member of the Board of Directors at SAIPA Diesel Car Company, and CEO of Shahed Real Estate Company. He is currently Vice-President and Head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization of Iran.

TBY talks to Seyed Hassan Mousavi, Vice-President & Head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization, on the significance of domestic tourism and investments expected in the sector over the coming two decades.

Iran ranks 68th in tourism revenues worldwide and is rated among the 10 most tourism-oriented countries. What makes Iran so attractive to international tourists?

Iran is located on the Asian continent and has been the inspiration for a great deal of literature over the years. Its climatic conditions and natural landscapes are unique when compared to other countries. Since Iran has been a crossroads for many civilizations, it has made a long-lasting impact on other countries and cultures. Iran represents a mosaic of cultures and civilization. There is no other place in the world that can be compared to here. Because of these conditions, the country attracts tourists like no other country in the world; experts compare Iran only to the US when it comes to the diversity of climatic conditions and the variety of landscapes. The US has little history, though, and its background cannot be compared to that of Iran. To utilize such potential and capacity, we need sound planning. We have been doing a lot of planning to realize the government’s vision to transform Iran into one of the 10 most visited tourist destinations in the world and achieve what the country deserves. What prevents the country from achieving these higher goals is the propaganda that obscures its potential. However, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held in Tehran in August 2012 was a huge opportunity for the country and contributed to some of the goals that Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) has in mind. We treated delegates to the sights and culture of the country, giving them a taste of the historical and archeological richness Iran has to offer. Many of the missing historical and artistic links in the chain of humanity have been discovered in Iran, and these are among the attractions we offer. Hopefully, we will achieve our rightful position in the global tourism marketplace soon.

What strategy is the ICHTO putting in place to stimulate both domestic and foreign tourism?

In terms of domestic tourism, our figures are impressive. The number of trips made by Iranians annually is almost six times greater than the average figure in the West. During the Iranian New Year holiday, many people take the opportunity to go travelling. In 2012 alone, there were 51 million travelers over a 15-day period. The Ahmadinejad administration has given special attention to tourism-related issues, with a special focus on heritage, handicrafts, and cultural links. Many developmental projects focus on promoting tourism, including transportation development strategies and air, land, and maritime infrastructure with facilitation for cross-border transportation in terms of visa issues with neighboring countries. This administration has stimulated foreign tourism operators in order to increase their presence in Iran. Another strategy is to pursue the rapid development of accommodation and hospitality facilities and infrastructure, supporting hotels and guesthouses by providing subsidies. At ICHTO, we have also identified 1,200 model tourism areas that we wish to offer investors so they can make the necessary decisions. Our goal is to provide a fertile ground for attracting foreign investment through the support of the Ministry of Finance and the Organization for Investment, Economic, and Technical Assistance of Iran (OIETAI). We have registered strong growth in FDI in terms of the returns provided on investor capital. Through these strategies we’ve been quite successful in attracting tourists from abroad. For the current Iranian calendar, we have projected a growth of 150% in tourism, although many countries in the world are facing a decline in the number of tourists. In this picture, Iran has increased its tourist volumes considerably. That considerable growth has been reached ahead of time.

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