Baku, Azerbaijan, May 12
By Umid Niayesh - Trend:
Having an ancient history, mix of cultures, different types of climate and beautiful nature, Iran has big tourism opportunities which have been neglected after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran has it all - starting from beautiful landscapes in country's regions, magnificent historical monuments to delicious food and Islamic masterpieces.
Meanwhile, the Iranian officials say that the Islamic Republic shared only 0.5 percent of the world tourism revenues which amounted for $1.5 trillion in 2014. The country's President Hassan Rouhani tries increase the flow of the tourists to the country.
Recently the research center of the county's parliament has published a detailed report which reveals the statistics of the tourism situation in the county untill 2013.
So, what is the Islamic Republic's tourism situation? Below is a list of facts about the issue, figures are extracted from the parliament's research center report.
1. According to Iranian media, the country, in terms of tourism potential, ranks 15th in the world, but based on the number of tourists it receives, only 45th-48th.
2. Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, imposed since its 1979 Islamic revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and body, unmarried couples may not share a hotel room and alcohol is banned.
3. Western credit cards don't work in Iran, meaning tourists have to bring cash.
4. Currently, Iran has 1,100 hotels; and only 130 of them are 4 and 5-star hotels. By 2025, the number of hotels in Iran will be increased threefold.
5. Most tourists come to the country from neighboring countries for treatment, visiting religious places, sightseeing, historical sites.
6. While 50 percent of tourists visiting Iran, do so on religious grounds, tourists from Europe, Canada, and Australia mostly visit natural sites in the north and the deserts in the south of the country.
7. About 81 percent of tourists come to the country because they had heard about it beforehand, 4 percent through the promotion of satellite TV, and 0.5 percent having familiarized themselves with the exhibitions organized outside of Iran.
8. Travel and tourism directly accounted for about 2.2 percent of Iran's GDP in 2013. Tourism revenues shared 6.1 percent of Iran's GDP in 2014, with 81.5 percent of the mentioned income coming from Iranians travelling inside the country.
9. Some 3.8 million of foreign tourists visited Iran, bringing $1.11 billion worth of income to the country in 2012. The figure stood at 4.77 million in 2013, 24.4 percent more year on year.
10. Despite the sharp rise in 2013, the flow rate of tourists to Iran has decreased in 2014. However the Iranian officials say the country's tourism industry has suffered the effects of international sanctions in the past 15 years and the lifting of sanctions will help to boost tourism.
11. Over five million tourists visited Iran in last fiscal year (March 21-2014-March 21-2015), four percent more year on year, according to Morteza Rahmani Movahed Deputy Head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization for tourism affairs.
12. In 2013, most tourists came to Iran from the following countries: Iraq (1.6 million, 52 percent more y/y), Azerbaijan (1.1 million, 59 percent more y/y), Afghanistan (392, 560 or 27.4 percent more), Turkey (391,283, 0.34 percent less) and Turkmenistan (169,618, 19.8 percent more y/y).
13. Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were also the top destination for Iranian tourists. Some 1.2 million Iranians visited Turkey in 2013, 0.9 percent more year on year.
14. Sharp fall in the value of Iran's national currency played a major role in attracting tourists from neighboring countries in particular from Iraq and Azerbaijan. Iran's national currency, the rial, lost about 50 percent of its foreign exchange value in less than a week in October 2012, standing at 35,500 versus the dollar. It was close to 10,000 in early 2011.
15. Iran is the most attractive country for tourists in terms of goods and service price among 141 countries, according to Travel and Tourism Competitiveness 2015 report released by the World Economic Forum.
16. Iran ranks 97th in terms of Travel and Tourism Competitiveness.
17. Having a large amount of Azerbaijani population is a profitable factor for the Islamic Republic to attract tourists from Azerbaijan. Iran unilaterally abolished the visa regime with Azerbaijan in 2009. Azerbaijani citizens can travel to Iran without a visa, by providing a passport. Azerbaijani citizens mainly visit Iran's Azerbaijani provinces as well as capital city of Tehran which is also populated by a majority of Azerbaijanis. The main reason for Azerbaijani tourists' visit to Iran is medical treatment.
18. Only 143,600 Iranians visited Azerbaijan in 2013, 49.4 percent fewer years on year. Sharp fall of rial's value was a major factor in the decrease.
19. A flow of tourists from the US to Iran has sharply increased in 2013, when over 1743 US tourists visited Iran that year (758.6 percent more compared to 2012).
20. The number of European tourists visiting Iran also increased by 34 percent and stood at some 1.78 million in 2013, compared to the previous year.
Umid Niayesh is Trend Agency's staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @UmidNiayesh