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EghtesadOnline: These days the Iranian media are replete with news stories about travelers rushing back their homes as the longest holiday in the country is over.

Facts and figures of domestic tourists are given by local and central authorities, but very few, if any, news is heard about foreign travelers coming to Iran.

Although the New Year in Western countries is not the same time as Norouz, from March to May is advised as the best travel time to Iran due to the mild temperature. Nevertheless, the number of foreign tourists coming to Iran is not proportionate to its capacities, IRNA reported. 

Iran is one of the attractive destinations to foreign especially Western tourists. New York Times last year described Iran as a 'booming destination for Europeans seeking an adventurous vacation.' 

Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, signed by Tehran and world powers in 2015, Iran has gradually come under the spotlight of Western media. 

Having been falsely portrayed as a scary place in Western media since victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran is well known for its safety and hospitality of its people. The tourists' account of their visit to Iran and their astonishment when they compare the reality with what they had been exposed to confirms the argument.

Although much of the situation is due to the adverse approach of Western governments toward Iran and their negative propaganda against it, the country's scarce attempt to introduce its potentials to foreigners has also played a role. 

Iran's cultural attaché in Turkey believes that introducing the country's attractions and capacities to the potential costumers and updating their information is a must for changing the “one-way tourism path, which is currently from Iran to Turkey, into a two-way highway”. 

Hassan Safarkhani, in an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), also confirmed that a team of Turkish tour leaders who had recently visited Iran expressed surprise on the big mismatch between their thought and what they have experienced on the ground.

Partaking actively in tourism exhibitions abroad, among other means, is one comparably convenient way of getting foreigners to see Iran's real image. Unfortunately the authorities in Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization have missed a number of similar opportunities, the latest of which was the Ankara Travel Expo 2017, held from March 23 to 25. 

Bilgin Aygul Head of Turkey-Iran business council who also managed the exposition, expressed regret on Iran’s low presence in the event, calling the country as main 'cultural tourism destination of the region' in near future. 

The title given to Iran by the Turkish official does not sound an exaggeration, as 20 out of 21 Iranian sites on the list of UNESCO world heritage are cultural. Furthermore, Iran's rich folklore, art and ethnic diversity, which are somehow unknown to Iranian people, much less to foreigners, add to its cultural potential for developing tourism industry.

Hosting a number of holy sites plus the rituals which are performed on religious occasions also are appreciated not only by Muslim travelers; every year, dozens of American and European tourists in groups visit the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS) in Mashad, as well as other religious sites in different cities like Qum and Shiraz. 

The American news website Business Insider put 'breathtaking mosques' of Iran next to the 'gorgeous natural landscapes' to describe its “untouched tourist attractions”.

Forbes placed Iran on its 'The 10 coolest places to go in 2017' and describes it as 'a journey for culture lovers'. 

In addition to the natural and cultural assets, safety has made Iran as one of the favorable tourist destinations in the region. While some countries such as Turkey are struggling with security and political challenges, Iran is generally regarded as the “island of stability”.

Iran's tourism potentials are not confined to what is mentioned here, but the key factor in promoting the sector as a good source of GDP, economic diversity and employment is managing the capacities efficiently and grabbing every opportunity, given the fact that this year is designated as the year of “Economy of Resistance: Production and Employment” by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Iran tourism