EghtesadOnline: Iran’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism has identified 30 target countries (out of 84 under study) to attract tourists from.
These countries have been selected using 13 indices that are divided into 60 parameters, the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reported.
The study and subsequent planning have been carried out by the Marketing and Advertisement Bureau of the Cultural Heritage Ministry where 13 indices influencing the amount of inbound tourism were surveyed.
The aim is to focus on the tastes and culture of tourists from these countries, work on the most effective ways to advertise Iran’s numerous and varied attractions, and adopt the best marketing strategies to increase visitors, Financial Tribune reported.
Iran’s political ties with the target countries, their per capita income and purchasing power, the number and expenditure of outbound tourists, Iran’s facilities in the source countries, the number of incoming tourists and direct flights, trade between Iran and the source countries, the number of Iranian expatriates in those countries, the political, security and social status of the source countries and their population were some of the indices considered by this study.
The 30 chosen countries are categorized and prioritized in four groups based on 13 indices and 60 parameters.
China, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Oman are placed in the first group that enjoys top priority.
The second group includes Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Russia and Armenia.
The third group comprises Germany, Italy, France, Qatar, Kuwait, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Kazakhstan and the UAE, while the last group includes the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Georgia, Belgium, Denmark and Lebanon.
After selecting the target countries, the Tourism Ministry’s Marketing and Advertisement Bureau plans to supply products and services to tourists from these source countries based on their needs and tastes. The aim is to add variety to Iran’s tourism market currently focused on the country’s historical and cultural attractions.
Some tourists from these countries demand services and products other than cultural and historical ones. They travel for pilgrimage, health or trade purposes. Some pursue agrotourism and literary tourism while others prefer nature-trekking services and products.
The plan seeks to meet the specific needs of tourists from each of the countries listed above.
Growth in Inbound Tourists
According to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism, a total of 5,890,952 tourists visited Iran during the first seven months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Oct. 22) to register a 24% growth compared with the same period of last year.
Although rising tensions between Washington and Tehran are hitting visitor numbers, especially from Europe, the increasing number of religious and medical tourists is making up for the loss.
According to Ebrahim Pourfaraj of Iranian Tourism Association, the weak rial helps bring in tourists to Iran.
"They come on pilgrimages or for medical treatment. To some extent, that makes up for the losses," he told DW in an interview.
Iran has been ranked first worldwide in terms of price competitiveness in the World Economic Forum's "The Travel and 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).
Iran hosted more than 7.29 million foreign tourists in 2018, about 50% more compared to the year before, according to the United Nations' World Tourism Organizations.
The country had a 2.1% share from global tourist arrivals and more than 22% in South Asia last year.
A total of more than 4.86 foreign tourists visited Iran in 2017, 1.5% less compared to the year before.
An earlier report by World Travel & Tourism Council indicates that Iraq was the main source of tourism for Iran last year as Iraqis constituted 24% of all inbound visitors. Other major sources were Azerbaijan (17%), Turkey (8%), Pakistan (4%) and Bahrain (2%). The remaining 46% came from other countries.
As for tourist spending, the 2018 figure was not reported by the UNWTO report. But it says foreign tourists spent more than $4.4 billion in Iran in 2017.
Iranian authorities have redoubled efforts to boost tourism sector to increase foreign currency revenues and create jobs.
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 preceding year.
"The development of tourism infrastructure, considerable volume of investments in the tourism sector along with the issuance of electronic visa and visa waiver for target countries could be considered the main causes of the growth in foreign travelers," Minister of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Ali Asghar Mounesan has been quoted as saying.
Facilitation of Visa Regime
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the National Conference on Ecotourism, Culture and Tourism Development in Mashhad earlier this month, Mojtaba Karimi, the head of the Department of Passports and Visas of Foreign Ministry, said the ministry welcomes the process of facilitating tourist arrivals to the country, thus visa facilitation is on the agenda.
He said negotiations are underway with several countries to lift visa barriers.
A visa-free program is underway in Iran for foreign nationals from Iraq, Oman and China.
Tehran is also offering one-year multiple-entry visas to Indians to boost bilateral trade and people-to-people contact. In addition, Iran also recently extended the visa on arrival facility for Indian nationals to 90 days from 30.
Karimi noted that the issuance of electronic visas at the Foreign Ministry started in 2016 and are now being issued in the shortest time possible.
He expected the country to host over 7.7 million tourists by the end of the current fiscal year (March 19, 2020).