EghtesadOnline: Iran will host the 2021 meeting of Economic Cooperation Organization’s tourism ministers.
The decision was made during the third edition of the meeting held in Tajikistan’s city of Khujand from October 3-4.
Attended by Iranian Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ali Asghar Mounesan, Iran’s proposal for introducing ECO cultural capitals was ratified and the cities of Sari in the north and Ardabil in the northwest of Iran were named ECO cultural capitals for 2022 and 2023 respectively at the meeting, CHTN.ir reported.
Mounesan met with Tajikistan's Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Muhridin upon his arrival in Dushanbe where the two sides surveyed ways of expanding bilateral cooperation in different fields, tourism in particular, Financial Tribune reported.
ECO is a Eurasian economic intergovernmental organization founded in 1984 in Tehran by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan later joined the economic bloc.
It provides a platform to improve development and promote trade and investment opportunities.
An ad hoc organization under the United Nations Charter, ECO aims to establish a single market for goods and services, much like the European Union. Its secretariat and cultural department are located in Iran, while its economic bureau is in Turkey and its scientific bureau is situated in Pakistan.
ECO consists of predominantly Muslim-majority states as it is a trade bloc of Central Asian states connected to the Mediterranean through Turkey, to the Persian Gulf via Iran, and to Arabian Sea via Pakistan.
“A total of 4.1 million foreign tourists visited Iran during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Aug. 22),” deputy minister of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism, Vali Teymouri, was quoted as saying by Radio Eqtesad.
"The visits were made despite the country facing repeated threats and challenges."
Although rising tensions between Washington and Tehran are hitting visitor numbers, especially from Europe, the increasing number of Iran travelers for religious and medical purposes is making up for the loss.
A record high of 600,000 health tourists visited Iran during the first four months of the current Iranian year (March 21-July 21), equaling the total number of health tourists who paid a visit to the country in the last fiscal year (March 2018-19).
“Last year, a total of $1.2 billion in revenues were generated for the country through health tourism. The figure has increased by 20-30% during the first four months of this year,” deputy head of Iran Health Tourism Expansion Association of Iran, Mohammad Panahi, has been quoted as saying.
Iran has been ranked first worldwide in terms of price competitiveness in the World Economic Forum's "The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019" with a score of 6.7.
Scores range from 1 to 7 where 1 means worst and 7 means best.
The report attributes Iran's top ranking to low ticket taxes and airport charges (seventh), fuel prices (fifth) and high purchasing power (fifth).
Notably, the "ICT Readiness" pillar of the "Enabling Environment" sub-index, which captures the general conditions necessary for operating in a country, for Iran saw the most improvement in MENA region.
Iranian officials have redoubled efforts to give a boost to the country’s tourism sector to increase foreign currency revenues and create jobs in declining economic conditions.
About 7.8 million tourists traveled to Iran in the last Iranian year that ended March 20 to register a 52.5% growth compared with the preceding year.
"The development of tourism infrastructure, considerable volume of investments in the tourism sector, issuance of electronic visa and visa waiver for target countries could be named as the main causes of the growth in the number of foreign travelers," Mounesan said.