Panorama
Wed, Feb 09, 2005
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Religious Tourism Potentials Rich
Sightseeing
Imamzadeh Ismail
More Tourists Visit Turkey
Italy’s BIT, Good Marketing Opportunity
Samuel Johnson (English author, 1709-84): The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality.
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Burnt City Can Become a Magnet
EU Funding for Kenya
China Enters Peak Travel Period

Religious Tourism Potentials Rich
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Mashhad is presently hosting 15 million pilgrims a year which can further increase by
reinforcing infrastructural facilities there.
Experts contend that reinforcement of the tourism industry is essential due to the wide range of economic, sociocultural and religious effects it would generate. Targeting a modest 1 percent of the 25 million Muslim Shiite tourists annually could promise a makeover in the national tourism sector.
Syria and Saudi Arabia provide vivid examples of countries leading the way in expansion of religious tourism. Iran can perhaps gain a lot by domesticating tourism patterns adopted by these countries.
Pilgrims to Iran's number one religious city, Mashhad where the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS) is located, generate a yearly value-added of 2,000 billion rials for the city, an ISNA report said.
In contrast, other Iranian cities with rich religious potentials have failed to draw up efficient plans to that effect. These cities boast a number of religious monuments, mausoleums and memorials, all of which can act as magnets for Shiite pilgrims, provided well-targeted plans are in place.
Seyyed Hossein Shah-Moradi, in charge of the Taskforce for Holy Shrines and Religious Monuments, unveiled plans to prepare more than 6,000 cultural monuments and places of worship for expansion of religious tourism.
"Seven organizations and 14 ministries are involved in promotion of religious tourism, testifying to the fact that the responsibility does not rest with the taskforce and the Iran Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization alone," he noted.
"Mashhad is presently hosting 15 million pilgrims a year which can further increase by reinforcing infrastructural facilities there."
Director of Khorasan Razavi Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, Abolfazl Mokarrami-Far, insisted that promotion of religious tourism was high on the agenda of provincial programs. "The question is: what are the best practical mechanisms to achieve that goal and what are the main obstacles facing the task?"
Shahmoradi said, "We are presently conducting preliminary studies for the establishment of facilities such as public conveniences, accommodation centers and recreational places for pilgrims around religious places."
A university professor, Zargham, highlighted the need for handing over religious tourism management to private sector and said, "The issue of profitability of religious tourism was met with skepticism. The decision-makers seem to prefer the present chaos to earning revenues for the country, unaware that the global conditions have changed."
He said Iran is the best place for Muslim tourists in terms of its geopolitical status.
"Hajj pilgrims can pass through Iran to visit several popular religious locations en route to Saudi Arabia. Pilgrimage is an essential ingredient of our national culture. Directors of an Islamic government ought to provide good conditions for the world Muslims."
He explained that pilgrimage tours are included in the expenditures of middle-class families who might sacrifice other entertainments for going to religious tours. This highlights the need for providing facilities that would be within the means of such groups.
Director of Tourism Management Department of Allameh Tabatabaei University, Farzin, agreed that religious tourism is of special significance in the national strategy, promoting which requires expansion of ties with other Muslim countries.
He said cultural tours account for 37 percent of the total number of tours worldwide. "Through appropriate marketing, Iran can magnetize a large number of religious tourists as well as those interested in Islamic culture," he opined.
He insisted that the arrival of these tourists should be facilitated. "More Arabs have been visiting Mashhad ever since the flight routes between the city and Saudi Arabia were expanded."
According to Farzin, as the first step, the target markets should be identified. "Religious tourists mainly come form Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf littoral states and other Muslim countries," he stated.

Sightseeing
Imamzadeh Ismail
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Located in the city of Isfahan, Imamzadeh Ismail is one of the local fascinations.
The original construction of the monument is attributed to early Islamic period. Its minaret and part of the present building belong to the Seljukid times. Under the Safavids, other structures, including the mausoleum, porches and a courtyard were added to the monument.
On the whole, the edifice possesses considerable architectural and decorative attraction.
In its present state, the monument consists of a very old mosque, the mausoleum of an Imamzadeh (descendant of an Imam), a gallery, a portal, a beautiful large dome, the courtyard, a prayer hall, an ivan, a sanctuary (harem), the tombstone of Shah Ismail Safavid daughter, a magnificent door, Qazi Safieddin Muhammad’s tomb, several stone-troughs and a series of decorative tile works, stucco ornaments and a superb tile tablet, as well as numerous historical inscriptions from the Safavid period.

More Tourists Visit Turkey
With more than 650,000 Iranians spending their vacations in neighboring Turkey in 2004, Iran became one of the top tourist providers to the neighboring country.
As reported by ILNA, Iran occupied the sixth place among countries sending tourists to Turkey in 2003 as well with 500,000 vacationers.
Turkey stands fifth in terms of its tourism industry among world countries. The Turkish government has been pursuing extensive plans to reach that goal since 50 years ago.
Presently, 80 tourism high schools with 20,000 students, and eight tourism and hoteliering colleges with 2,500 students are active in Turkey.
It is worth mentioning that despite being one of the world’s top 10 countries in terms of tourism attractions, Iran has just started planning its first-ever tourism faculties in Semnan and Tabriz.

Italy’s BIT, Good Marketing Opportunity
Iranian tour and travel agencies will participate in Italy’s BIT 2005 international tourism exhibition that is going to be held in Milan on Feb. 12-15.
Iran Air, Sharq Pouya, Pasargad Tour and Arg-e Jadid aviation and travel agencies will represent Iran at the event, ISNA reported.
Iranian government had planned to obtain a special pavilion at the fair where all domestic tour operators and travel agencies would be based. However, this did not happen due to delayed attempts and the participants had to obtain the pavilions at their own costs.
A manager with Arg-e Jadid travel agency, Hassan Asanlou, said, “Iran had a strong showing in BIT prior to September 11, 2001. Whereas presently, the country is only represented by a few companies. Before the 9/11 attacks, Italians comprised the largest groups of foreign visitors to Iran. Later, Italy was replaced by Germany.”
He insisted that foreign tourists demand security, attractions, facilities and a good image of the target country. “Given the regional crises, few foreigners would be willing to pick Iran as a tourist destination,” Asanlou mentioned.
“Unfortunately, Iran has not been mentioned in any of Italy’s tourism brochures. However, BIT seems to be a good opportunity for accessing Italy’s market and changing the dominant mentality toward Iran.”
BIT is the largest exhibition in the world for the Italian tourist products and a thorough show of the best the international market has to offer. It is a reference point for all tourism system leaders.

Samuel Johnson (English author, 1709-84): The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality.

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Arg gate in Semnan. The monument was erected during the Qajar era. (IRNA Photo)

Burnt City Can Become a Magnet
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Despite its 5,000-year history, the Burnt City has remained unknown not only to foreign tourists, but also to Iranians.
Sistan-Baluchestan Governor General Hossein Amini said that given the old age of Shahr-e Soukhteh (the Burnt City) in Zabol, the government needs to do more to turn the region into a magnet for sightseers.
Amini told IRNA, “Despite its 5,000-year history, the Burnt City has remained unknown not only to foreign tourists, but also to Iranians.”
He noted that more efforts should be made to discover and publicize other interesting features of the ancient site.
“Burnt City can turn into one of the most important cultural heritage sites and this cannot be achieved but through large-scale publicity,” Amini proposed.
He enumerated the most important characteristics of the Burnt City as the absence of metal and warfare objects, abundance of scientific and artistic artifacts and allocation of separate sections for residential and industrial areas of the city.
The Burnt City is located in a 25-hectare area, 55 km from Zabol by the Zabol-Zahedan Road.
Zabol has a population of 400,000 and is located 205 km northeast of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, and shares 314 km of common border with Afghanistan’s Nimruz province.

EU Funding for Kenya
The European Union (EU) will give the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) funds to put up a tourism information and statistics development facility, allafrica.com reported.
The facility to be funded through the Tourist Trust Fund (TTF) is expected to cost Sh20 million. It will enable KTB tabulate and store its own data on key tourist indicators for marketing purposes.
"The information will focus on length of stay of visitors, reasons for traveling to a particular place and on accommodation," said Kennedy Manyalla, KTB's Research and Development Officer.
He said the information would also center on tourism expenditure and their entertainment patterns. Manyalla said the first phase of data re-organization would cost KTB Sh7 million.
The next phase, he said, will involve construction of an electronic data system to enable hotels access industry statistics on time. The EU funds Kenyan tourism projects through TTF.
In 2003, the EU/TTF sponsored a Sh250 million Western European marketing project that is credited for last year's Sh42 billion impressive trading results.
KTB Managing Director, Achieng Ong'ong'a, said owning a current database will free the board from over-reliance on Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), whose data on vital tourism information is often late.
Manyalla said though the KTB board has approved the project and the funding is available, TTF has not released the money. "I don't understand why they are still dragging their feet. The project was to kick off between July and September last year. It is becoming a concern to us," said Manyalla.
Meanwhile, Ongo'ng'a says KTB would send a team to Congo to market Kenya.
He said it had been established that African tourists normally spend more than their Western counterparts. "African visitors are interested in shopping and spend an average of Sh120,000 per week compared to Sh56,000 by a European visitor," said Ong'ong'a.
Earlier, Lidambiza said Congo has a big population of UN staff that Kenya can entice for shopping expeditions in Nairobi.
Every Kenyan Shilling is equal to 0.012 dollars.

China Enters Peak Travel Period
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Chinese travelers wait in line to enter the Beijing western railway station.
China's transportation network was clogged with millions of travelers as the country entered its peak period for the Lunar New Year in the weekend, state media reported.
In the days since the Chinese New Year travel season began on January 25, 680 million trips had been taken, the state-run CCTV station reported, citing figures released by the Ministry of Transportation.
In the capital Beijing, some 600,000 people were expected to make train journeys over Saturday and Sunday, the Xinhua news agency said.
Tickets for regular trains have been sold out and an extra 56 trains have been added to the schedules. The number of people traveling to or from Beijing by air will likely reach 120,000 over the weekend with the number of flights at Beijing International Airport expected to reach about 1,000, civil aviation authorities said.
The capital draws one of the country's largest number of migrant workers from China's poor rural areas. Most of the travelers are migrants going home to celebrate Lunar New Year during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, which begins Wednesday, the first day of the year of the Rooster.
Migrant workers prefer to take trains, unable to afford plane tickets. CCTV said 65 percent of the seats on the country's flights have been sold, with 30 percent of the seats still available.
Highways will also see their busiest time of the year, especially where migrant workers tend to work: in the Pearl River Delta area in southern Guangdong province, the Yangtze River Delta in eastern Shanghai metropolis, as well as Beijing, Tianjin city and Hebei province in north China.
No major travel problems have been reported so far, CCTV said. Accidents, however, generally occur more frequently during this period. Travel in China during this period marks the biggest movement of people on Earth each year: with up to 1.97 billion train, plane, or bus trips expected to be made from Jan. 25 to Feb. 28.