Head of a new government agency charged with cutting government’s involvement in tourism relaxes pricing rules, license requirement and other regulations slowing Iran’s tourism industry, but rules out relaxing women's Islamic dress code. To increase Iran’s share of the world’s tourism business, the country is planning to spend $5 billion in the next five years on revamping hotels, fixing roads and polishing tourist sites and services, head of a new government agency to promote tourism said in Tehran. In addition to spending increases, most of which would need to come from abroad, the new agency has embarked on relaxing the rules and changing the notions that have isolated Iran as a tourist destination since the 1979 revolution.
The new government agency, formed last May under vice president Hossein Marashi, was charged with cutting government involvement in tourism, Reuters said in a feature, doubting Marashi’s goal of attracting 1.5 percent of the world’s tourists to Iran by 2024. Iran’s share of the world’s tourism business is now around one-tenth of a percent.
“This is impossible without foreign investment,” Marashi said, identifying an area where Iran’s progress has been slow. Nevertheless, he projected that, by 2024, tourism would earn $25 billion per year in foreign currency, more than Iran’s current oil income.
To achieve the ambitious goal, Marashi said he was relaxing government control of the tourism industry and dropping the notion from Iran’s official culture, that foreign tourists somehow threaten Islamic values. His reforms include, ending the case-by-case licensing for tour groups and removing state pricing for tours and hotel rooms.
“The market will define prices based on supply and demand as well as the quality of services,” he added. Foreigners, who used to pay nearly 10 times more than Iranians to visit sights, will now pay the same as locals.
Iran’s fledgling tourism industry was badly hit by wars in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq, but Iran’s tourism has sufferred from an image problem since the Islamic revolution, according to tour operators interviewed for the Reuters’ feature.
Marashi said he was planning a campaign to tackle the image issue by advertising Iran’s attractions on international media, however he ruled out relaxing the strict Islamic dress code imposed on women who travel to Iran. “Anyone who heads for Iran has enough motivation to accept Islamic dress code for two weeks,” Marashi said.