“Bustling bazaars and ancient sights, parched deserts and snowcapped mountains, awesome architecture and simple hospitality”

--Lonely Planet’s guide to Iran

map of Persian Empire

Ancient Persian Empire
Source: www.iranianlanguages.com

Map Iran

Present day Iran
Source: www.state.gov


I. Identification

1. The Issue

Tourism is becoming an increasingly popular way to boost economic growth in developing countries. On a global scale, European countries tend to dominate this sector. The demand for tourism in the Middle East in 2005 represents 2.1% of the global share while the European Union alone accounts for 36.6%, nearly 20 times greater (WTTC, 2005). The statistics are quire conflicting considering that the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. Iran is a case in point, and this case study will address Iran’s potential in the tourism industry and its Tourism Master Plan as this country looks to increase its international tourism arrivals as a way to generate more revenue than oil. In terms of development, the tourism industry is relatively new in Iran; therefore, for purposes of this case study, some aspects of Iran’s tourism will be compared to Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan because of their regional proximities and similarities in culture, attractions, and religion.

2. Description


The Revolution of 1979 has caused the media to generate much propaganda about Iran, thereby scarring its image, particularly in the Western world. Before 1979, Iran was a well sought-after destination due to its impressive history of over 2,500 years. United States citizens alone accounted for 70,000 of the tourist arrivals in 1977 (compared to 800 in 1995) (Alavi and Yasin, 2000, p. 13). Many American hotel chains such as the Hilton, Sheraton, Intercontinental, and Hyatt developed hotels throughout the country; however, within days of the Revolution, all Western businesses were forced to pull out, and Iran’s tourism sector plummeted. The economy dropped further from the eight-year war with neighboring Iraq.

Since the election of liberal President Mohammad Khatami, who is currently serving his second term, Iran’s image has changed significantly, and tourism has become a top priority. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) is assisting Iran in embarking on a Tourism Development Master Plan, an ambitious 20-year plan in which Iran hopes to capture 1.5% of the world’s total tourist arrivals, about 20 million international tourists annually. This is not at all an unrealistic goal considering that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranks Iran seventh in the world in terms of possessing historical monuments, museums, and other cultural attractions. Unfortunately, however, Iran places 70th worldwide in terms of its tourism hosting capacity and 13th among Moslem countries (“Iran would-be hub”, 2005). Iran’s market share of Middle East total demand is 16.7%, but on the global scale it is a mere 0.35% (WTTC, 2005). Egypt, on the other hand, an Islamic country of relatively similar geographic size and population, ranks sixth in the top ten most sought after destinations in the world (“Travel Egypt Monthly Newsletter”, 2003). Such figures are very disappointing considering Iran’s culture and attractions.

Iran has been cautious in opening its doors to mass tourism mainly because the government is looking to attract certain types of tourists that will be compatible with what the country has to offer. Because of this long await, it feels the need to develop its tourism industry considerably to be prepared fully to receive tourists. The government is backing the WTO-assisted Master Plan by increasing its annual tourism budget by eight times in 2005. In addition, an estimated US $5 billion will be put forth by the government for preservation and restoration efforts of historical monuments as well as other tourism infrastructural needs. The Iranian general public, known for its hospitality, also requires education about the benefits of sustainable tourism.

We have an awareness program for informing and where necessary educating the general public about tourism, removing misconceptions, telling them about being good hosts, about the economic benefits of tourism and its contribution to employment and social development and encouraging the voluntary development of codes of conduct to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism and improve environmental quality (WTO, 2002).

The main objectives of Iran’s Tourism Master Plan are promoting sustainable development and management for tourism and their impacts in three main areas:
1. Natural Environment: development of an appropriate legal framework; improved management planning; greater local community participation; world heritage listing of prime sites (WTO, 2002).
2. Socio-Cultural Environment: strengthening the application of sustainable principles and practices in planning, development and operation of cultural sites; a code of ethics; a public awareness and host awareness program, local participation as tour guides; explanation of the importance of cultural heritage and its conservation and development; participation in the development of Small Business Enterprises (WTO, 2002).
3. Economic Environment: strategies to reduce imports and increase information on local suppliers; promote decentralization of tourism products and services; create a more receptive environment for investment through review and revision of applicable laws; improve international tourist arrivals through visa facilitation and e-visa; improved customs laws; implementation of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) (WTO, 2002).

The Government realizes these enormous tasks cannot be done on their own and has therefore given a greater responsibility to the private sector and is encouraging public-private sector partnerships as well as foreign investments. This is a crucial step if Iran hopes to boost its image considerably and follow through with its Tourism Master Plan. In fact, a top economic Advisor to the World Bank (2004) stated that Iran’s economic development “is totally dependant on the expansion of its private sector.”

The public sector has already given substantial responsibilities to the private sector in developing the tourism industry, limiting its own role to tourism policy making and strategic planning (WTO, 2002). Infrastructure, tourism policy, and public-private sector partnerships are precisely what Iran is lacking is developing its tourism industry to its fullest potential.


3. Related Cases

Helmy, E. (2004). Towards Integration of Sustainability into Tourism Planning in Developing Countries: Egypt as a Case Study. Current Issues in Tourism, 7, 478-501.
TSA information from World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC): http://www.wttc.org/2004tsa/frameset2a.htm
Iran-Scottish Hotel School Partnership: http://www.instroct.org/aboutus.html
Information about Ecotourism in Iran: http://www.ecotour-iran.com/about.htm

4. Author and Date

Pontia Fallahi
Master of Tourism Administration Candidate
Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, School of Business
The George Washington University
600 21st St., NW Washington, DC 20052

April, 2005



eagle II. Policy Impacts

5. Social

Social aspects of tourism in Iran could be a double-edge sword; therefore considerable measures need to be taken in order to preserve the culture. Bazaar workers throughout the country, particularly the famous bazaars in Shiraz and Esfahan, are experiencing a decline in the number of youth willing to learn the traditional ways of making handicrafts (personal communication, June 2004). Tourism can preserve these traditions due to demand from tourists. On the other hand, the government needs to be careful not to turn such handicrafts into mass produced, commercialized items as seen in many island nations that depend on tourism.

Attracting more tourists to the country will dispel previous misconceptions about the Iranian culture and its people. One of the objectives of the Tourism Master Plan is to establish public awareness and host awareness programs. It is crucial for Iranians to be helpful and treat tourists with much respect. However, Iranian youth, who try to model their lives on Western lifestyles, can be affected even more through tourism by viewing their culture as backwards compared to the West. As the Tourism Master Plan suggests, great measures need to be taken to educate locals about the importance of cultural heritage. The youth of Jordan’s Bidul tribe experienced similar feelings of their own culture’s insignificance due to increased tourism. The young Bidul’s exposure to the Western lifestyle caused them to see themselves as “backwards”. Confusion of cultures was created by the Biduls trying to imitate Western fashion and manners, even thought Westerners were seen as corrupt (Shoup, 1985).

Another social implication in Iran’s tourism industry is that of alcohol use and women’s dress code (hejab). Almost any guidebook about Iran will mention the like of that if one can forego their drinking for a week and women are willing to wear hejab when going out, then Iran can truly be a pleasurable destination. These issues have been the topic of much debate among government officials. Should alcohol be allowed for tourists in hotels? Must foreign women cover their hair even though they may not follow the Islamic faith? To date, alcohol is still prohibited, but laws regarding hejab have become very lax in recent years, even for Iranian women. The government simply asks that female tourists respect the law. In this case, Iran should look at the situation in Turkey, an Islamic country in which Turkish women are allowed the choice of whether or not to wear hejab, and alcohol is permitted. The number of non-resident tourist arrivals in Iran in 2002 was 1.5 million compared to Turkey’s at 12.7 million international tourists during the same year (WTO). Egypt, another Islamic state, requests modest dress from women, but does not require the full hejab. Egypt’s non-resident tourist arrivals were 5.1 million in 2002 (WTO). This drastic difference in the number of tourism arrivals can be contributed to both countries’ ease of social regulations and entry requirements.

Nomadic lifestyles are still present throughout Iran and a great attraction for many tourists. Ethnic groups such as the Qashqai, Turks, Kurds, Baluchi, and Lur, just to name a few, have been living throughout Iran for years. Introducing mass tourism to these groups has the potential to deteriorate their rich culture to cater to the attention and interest of tourists. Most importantly, however, tourism development may force many ethnic groups to relocate. For example, the Bidul tribe in Petra, Jordan was forced to relocate by the government because they were seen as “destructive to Petra’s ancient ruins and a bother to the tourists,” (Shoup, 1985, p. 281). Rapid development in their once isolated area caused the commercialization of this tribe due to tourist interest in this nomadic lifestyle. Women were able to make small profits from handicrafts, but that was the extent of their role in the tourism industry. Jobs in nearby hotels were mainly given to Egyptians who spoke English while the Bidul were given “menial positions on the grounds or in the kitchen,” (Shoup, 1985, p.283). The Iranian government and tour organizations need to be careful not to turn Iran’s ethnic groups into a situation like the Biduls. The Qashqai, an ethnic group in the southern Fars province of Iran, have attracted tourists for some time. Therefore the government placed a small group of them in a permanent area in Shiraz strictly for tourist purposes. Tourists may now come and take pictures, eat, and stay the night with this group without distracting their entire community (personal communication, June 2004). However this group should not be commercialized too much for the tourist’s benefit because, after all, it is their traditional lifestyle that attracted tourists there in the first place.

people in street

6. Environmental

Iran currently has six sites listed with UNESCO: Bam, Meidan Emam in Esfahan, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Takht-e-Soleyman, and Tchogha Zanbil. These sites, however, lack sufficient management plans for protection and conservation. The first thing any tourist will notice upon arrival at the near 3,000 year-old remaining structures of Persepolis, is the graffiti carved into the rocks by international and domestic tourists.

In Petra, Jordan, pollution and uncontrolled flows of tourists were causing the deterioration of this ancient site. In response to Queen Noor’s concerns, UNESCO created a mission consisting of experts in all fields from archaeology to management of national parks to cultural tourism to protect Petra and its surroundings (UNESCO, 1993). In Egypt, due to the large numbers of tourists wishing to tour the insides of the Pyramids of Giza, a limit had to be placed (150 tourists in the morning and 150 in the evening) in order to preserve these great structures (“Egypt at a Glance”, 2003). Even though sites such as Persepolis do not attract the same number of tourists that Petra and Giza do, Iran needs to implement conservation practices and education programs now to preserve these sites for the volume of tourists they expect in the future from the Tourism Master Plan.


7. Economic

Sixty percent of the population of Iran is under the age of 25, (www.census.gov) making tourism an ideal way to generate employment. However training is an important factor in being able to adequately attend to the needs of international guests. Tourism is predominantly driven by the West therefore training needs to be consistent with international standards in order to be successful. Locals of rural areas can be trained as home stay hosts or local tour guides, contributing to the distribution of benefits, another objective of the Master Plan. One such effort is in Masuleh, discussed in section 10 below.

8. Other

Politics has played a big role in where Iran stands today on a global scale. It has caused the media to portray Iran as an unsafe country full of religious fanatics. Politics has also contributed to tourist fears of traveling to this country. Trade and economic embargos have had great impacts on Iran’s services sector as well, especially immediately after the Revolution when world relations were cut off overnight. However the moderation Iran is showing in its politics is once again attracting foreign attention thereby advancing its services sector through foreign expertise and trade.

9. Suggested Interventions

Because Iran is in a phase in which people are still skeptical about traveling there, the government and tourist agencies should consider marketing to countries that are willing to send their citizens to such a destination (Gholipour, 2005). Countries such as Japan, Germany, and Turkey, that have good relations with Iran, should be specifically targeted. Through such marketing techniques and word-of-mouth, Iran’s international tourist arrivals will increase.

Special brochures and booklets should be printed to introduce the attractions, invite foreign reporters to closely view the country’s attractions and tourist facilities and reflect them worldwide, organize related fairs and conferences in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization and even conduct some publicity with the help of the national airlines (Gholipour, 2005).

Obtaining an entry visa is another issue tourists face. Currently, the only countries with no visa entry requirements are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia (ITTO). Easing visa entry requirements for other countries as well will enhance Iran’s image of being less intense and prove its desire to come out of isolation and fully integrate itself into the world community. Recently, Iran has offered a seven-day visa upon arrival at five international airports (WTO). In addition to this, tourists wishing to specifically visit the Silk Road should be placed in a separate category of visa requirement. Providing a “Silk Road Tourist” visa form can speed the process of these tourists specifically wishing to travel along this path (WTO). Joining with other Silk Road countries in this program will facilitate many visitors even further.

eagle III. Legal Clusters

10. Discourse and Status/Policy Issue


Iran is a country with a population of 67.5 million in 2004, almost 60% of which are under the age of 25. In 2002, the unemployment rate was 15.7% (CIA Factbook). The lack of job opportunities is causing Iranian youth to seek other ways spending their leisure time like drug abuse (Sheykhi, 2003). Because drug use is a taboo subject in Iran, the consequences are unknown, thereby truly corrupting the youth. Tourism can help to combat this issue by creating the many needed jobs. According to a seminar on tourism held in Tehran in 2000, 32 million jobs needs to be created by the year 2021 (“Iranian Eco-tourism”, 2004). Tourism can provide on-site job training, increase employment and income, and improve the distribution of income to poorer regions of the country. As one of the objectives of the Master Plan suggests, citizens can be trained as local tour guides which is an initiative taking place in the city of Masuleh in the northern region of Iran. The unique houses in Masuleh, in which the front porch of one neighbor is another’s rooftop, is the site of a UNESCO/Iranian Tourism and Touring Organization (ITTO) project. With the full participation of the local community as well as private-public sector partnerships, locals of this community will be trained and given the necessary skills to manage home stays and be cultural and nature tour guides. The handicraft industry will also be enhanced in this region, contributing to the distribution of benefits (UNESCO, 2004).

On the other hand, the growth of tourism can also increase the flow of drugs into the country. Opium flow into Iran has been a problem for years due to the income it provides to neighboring Afghanistan. The government needs to work proactively in battling this issue to make sure that opening its doors to tourism will not worsen this problem. In addition, the growth of tourism in prime site locations can cause a surge of nomadic peoples, with no skills or training, into these areas in search of tourism-related jobs. If proper planning and training does not take place, the quality of tourism facilities and services that Iran has to offer will deteriorate.

11. Forum and Scope

International: Opening tourism in Iran will prove its will to come out of isolation and join the world community. Iran has established a Special Economic Zone and a Free-Trade Industrial Zone. These free zones have independent juridical personalities and each is administered by an organization formed by Iran’s Commercial Code. Designed as an incentive for foreign investment, these zones have facilities such as: proper employment regulations, 15 years tax exemption, national and international banking facilities, no currency restrictions, abundance of energy sources, labor of all skill levels, no visa entry requirements, and tourist attractions. The free-zones of Kish, Gheshm, and Chabahar are also located in areas with easy access to major air and land transportation as well as access to waterways via the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, and the Indian Ocean (“Free Trade Zones”, ITTO). These free-trade zones should be a starting point for the Tourism Master Plan’s objective of creating a suitable environment for foreign investment. Improvements in the economic situation as well as the growing support of the private sector is encouraging many foreign investors to take advantage of this market, especially since 2002, when a foreign investment protection law was approved. In addition, Iran opening its doors and easing restrictions on international tourists could spark other countries to do the same for Iranian tourists traveling abroad. For now, the most Iranians know about the Western world is what they see on satellite television. Tourism exchange can promote not only cultural awareness and acceptance, but also increase dialog between Iran and other nations.

Regional: Tourism will turn Iran into a competitor for international tourist arrivals and foreign revenue in the Middle East. In terms historical attractions, two of its major competitors are Egypt and Jordan. One of the prime historical sites of Iran that symbolizes Persian culture is Persepolis. Petra, a site in Jordan of similar historic value, attracted 161,000 visitors in 2003, a 1.15% increase from the previous year (“Tourism Sector Report”, 2004). Egypt, on the other hand, is a country that ranks sixth among the world’s top ten most popular destinations. The volume of visitors to the Pyramids of Giza caused the government to place a limit on daily visitors (“Egypt at a Glance”, 2003). According to the Toronto Star, in 1998, guards at Persepolis reported only a handful of tourists a day, about 50 (Cohn, 1998). Evidence suggests that this number has not risen significantly since then. Petra, Persepolis, and the Pyramids are all UNESCO sites, attracting thousands of tourists annually. Yet compared to Petra and the Pyramids, the number of tourists visiting Persepolis is quite insignificant.

National/Local: Many Iranians do not fully realize the depth and value of their culture and therefore take heritage sites for granted. Instead, many choose to travel to neighboring states such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates because of their lax laws. Iran has a great need for public awareness campaigns regarding the value of tourism and cultural heritage. International tourists coming to experience Iran’s cultural heritage could encourage Iranians to travel domestically, preventing leakage of Iranian money into other economies. An improvement of infrastructure and facilities will also persuade Iranians to travel domestically.

12. Decision Breadth/Stakeholders

Several stakeholders exist in the development of tourism in Iran. These include the Iranian Government, Iranian residents, nomadic/ethnic groups, tour organizers, tourism services and facilities, international tourists, UNESCO, and the WTO.

Special consideration needs to be given to nomadic and ethnic groups so that tourism does not deteriorate their culture and/or force them to relocate.



13. Legal Standing/Legal Regulatory Framework

The incentives that Iran has provided in its Free-trade Zones should encourage foreign investment, a fundamental element in its tourism industry and an objective of the Master Plan. So far, several European hotels have invested in developing and/or managing hotels in Iran. Rezidor SAS was the first international company to enter the Iranian market in 25 years, managing the Grand Hotel Dariush, a hotel modeled after Persepolis, on the island of Kish (“Rezidor SAS Enter Iran”, 2004). The French company Le Meridien is also developing and going on to manage five hotels in Tehran, Esfahan, Mash’ had, and Bandar Abbas (“Le Meridien in Iran, 2004). Meanwhile, the Spanish company, Hurakan, is to build an entertainment complex featuring five hotels in the northwestern city of Tabriz (“Hawthorn Provides Shelter”, 2004). One of the best companies in hospitality administration, Accor, will manage Tehran’s Laleh International Hotel starting April 2005 (“Accor Supervises Laleh”, 2005). Iran’s free-trade zones have attracted investors in the hotel sector to develop throughout the country.


eagle IV. Trade Clusters

14. Type of Measure

Iran’s tourism trade product is its ancient Persian culture and nature-based attractions.

15. Relation of Trade Measure to Environment/Tourism Impact

a. Directly related to product: The impact directly related to tourism in Iran is an increased number of visitors. More tourists will produce an increase in tourist receipts. In addition, tourism will increase the number of stakeholders leading to better and increased planning and development.

b. Indirectly related to product: Tourism will enhance Iran’s image internationally and change people’s perceptions of its policies, people, and culture.

c. Not related to product: Better planning and development of tourism can cause the urban revival of cities. Certain zones that have been neglected can be developed to increase revenues from tourists as well as locals. These new developments will provide Iranians with leisure activities, something they are lacking.

d. Related to process: The institutionalization of education and training programs to support tourism industry sectors.


16. Trade Product Identification/Trade Services

The trade product in this case is Iran offering its culture and attractions to tourists from all over the world. Tourists will impact services directly and indirectly affected by tourism in major cities and attraction sites. Furthermore, restaurants and tourists gift shops will benefit from tourists. One objective of the Tourism Master Plan is reducing the dependence of imports. If food products and handicrafts are enjoyed by tourists, such products could potentially be exported to other countries causing Iran to have to manufacture more if its own products.

17. Economic Data


Generally negated in the tourism sector, Iran’s efforts to ease restrictions on entry requirements along with its attractions can turn it into a tourism hub by 2010, according to the WTO, creating a share of US $12 billion in global tourism revenues (“Iran a would-be”, 2005). United Nations statistics point out that in 1996, global tourism reached 600 million tourists and generated US $425 billion compared to oil revenues from all oil exporting countries of US $175 billion in the same year (Alavi and Yasin, 2000). This drastic difference in revenue proves that Iran needs to lessen its dependence on the one source of revenue that it currently has, oil. In the past several years, Iran has implemented several five-year economic plans in order to boost the economy’s growth rate. Between 1996 and 2001, Iran showed a 4.3% increase in GDP, however due to many trade restrictions and the dominant role of the public sector, it was still well below its potential. In the third five-year plan, the government committed itself to generating employment, lowering inflation, reducing the dependence on oil exports, and improving the overall economic growth. Most importantly, however, the government committed itself to the support of the private sector. The growth of investment was predicted at 7.01% annually with 8.5% of it being private sector share and 5% government share. In 2003, Iran stood first in the Middle East and North Africa at an economic growth rate of 7.3%, excluding oil revenues (www.iran.ru, 2004). According to the WTTC (2005), Iran’s tourism industry in 2004 was expected to generate US $14 billion, with specific direct impacts including 2.8% of total employment and US $4.3 billion of GDP, which is equal to 3.1% of the total GDP. Indirect impacts increase these numbers to 7.1% of employment and US $11 billion equivalent to 7.9% of the total GDP.

18. Impact of Trade Restriction

Iran has already opened its doors to foreign investments by offering many incentives in the free-trade zones. Iran’s main trading partner, Germany, provided most of the direct foreign investment in 2003, US $270 million, and is now discussing bilateral trade (“US Slams Germany”, 2004). Turkey is the third foreign investor in Iran with current trade exchange at US $3.3 billion and expected to reach US $4.5 billion next year and US $10 billion annually in the future (“Iran-Turkey Trade”, 2004). Trade with Beijing is to reach US $6 billion by March 2005 (“Iran-China Exchange”, 2004). Other major countries with whom Iran imports and exports are France, Italy, Turkey, UAE, Taiwan South Korea, Russia, and Japan. The political and economic advancements of Iran have made foreign investors acutely aware of the possibilities in this market. However, since the United States imposed sanctions against Iran in 1979, a big potential trade partner has been cut off. This has made Iran’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization much more difficult due to the United States continuous rejection of Iran’s request. The success Iran has had in trading with other countries, its moderate attitude, incentives for foreign investments on free-trade locations, and desire to open its doors to tourism could convince the United States to lift its sanctions eventually. Lifting the sanction can encourage both countries to have dialog once again, which will benefit both nations and economies.

19. Industry Sector

Travel and tourism: cultural heritage sites and natural sites

ski resort

20. Exporters and Importers

Domestic and international tourists; tourism facilities such as hotels and restaurants; domestic and international travel agencies, tour operators, travel agents and tourism information centers such as the ITTO, and numerous travel agencies located in all 28 provinces; The main Iranian airlines of Iran Air, Mahan Airlines, Aseman Airlines, and Kish Air; Major international airlines such as Alitalia, KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Emirates, Turkish Airways, and Korean Air, among many others.

Trade in professional human resources: Spain and Iran are initiating extensive trade in professional human resources to launch extensive tourism cooperation. Spain will facilitate visas for Iranians visiting Spain and Iran will do the same for Spanish tourists visiting Iran. It will also assist Iran in preserving its historical sites, upgrade hotels, and convert old caravansaries into hotels. Most importantly, however, the transfer of experience and training to Iranian tourism experts will take place (“Iran-Spain Transactions”, 2005). German universities are also planning to offer hospitality management courses in Iran to train local tourism-related personnel (“Iran to Invest 30 Billion Dollars”, 2005). Germans are also assisting Iran in developing a tourism education center aimed at educating tourism managers and students about tourism economics, global marketing, tour guiding, and providing tourist services. Dutch professors are giving courses to Iranian tour guides in the summer of 2005 for a period of six days. Le Meridien, Rezidor SAS, Accor, and Hurakan are also managing a number of hotels throughout Iran.

eagle V. Macro/Environmental Clusters/Tourism Policy Clusters

21. Environmental Problem Type/Environmental Aspects

Registering more Iranian cultural heritage sites with UNESCO and public education for the preservation and management of these sites. Urban revival of cities.

22. Resource Impact and Effect

Education and training of human resources is critical in Iran to meet the knowledge and skills requirements of a growing tourism industry. These skills most importantly need to be on a level of international standards to be effective. Because a great majority of tourists are Europeans, the same services and comfort that is expected in their native countries should be present in Iran. Therefore foreigners teaching human resources skills to Iranians in the tourism field are a crucial step in the tourism development process

23. Urgency and Lifetime/Urgency and Policy Review

The urgency of tourism development in Iran is fairly strong. Iran needs to prioritize the Tourism Master Plan and start on it as soon as possible. While the objectives are clear, Iran needs to make every effort possible in the marketing department to get tourism running earlier than the projected goal of 2024. The sooner tourism in the country is boosted, the sooner jobs will be created and economic benefits will be seen. In addition, the sooner Iran is able to start its tourism industry, the sooner its chance for its image to be restored.

24. Substitutes/Alternative Policies

Oil production and exportation, natural gas production and exportation, fruits, nuts, carpets, caviar, saffron.

VI. Other Factors

25. Culture

Iran has an impressive history, fascinating culture, and incomparable hospitality that keep tourists coming back. It is also perhaps one of the most misunderstood and contradictive societies in the world. The ancient Persian Empire ruled for two centuries spanning from present-day Greece and Egypt to India. Contrary to popular belief, Iran is not an Arab country. In fact, Iran comes from the word “Aryan”. The official language is Farsi, and Indo-European language. A great number of ethnicities, for example the Azeri, Gilaki, Kurd, Lur, and Baluch, all have their own dialects. While commonly portrayed as a society of purely Islamic fundamentalists, Iran is comprised of many religions. The majority of people are Moslem, but a large number of people are also Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian. In fact, the Persian Empire was Zoroastrian, and most of the cultural traditions in existence today are taken from this religion. The sites of Persepolis (a Greek word meaning “City of Persians”) and its surroundings are remaining structures representing this ancient religion and culture. Fire temples in the city of Yazd are still frequented. Iranian people are very proud of their culture and history. In no other city is this better seen than in Esfahan, a city its people refer to as “Esfahan, nesf-e-jahan” (Esfahan is half of the world). Any visitor in this city will immediately notice why it is rightfully referred to as this name. The enormous “Meidan Emam” is a square in which ancient Persian monarchs used to gather to watch polo competitions. These and numerous other cultural sites along with the generous nature of the Iranian people are sure to change tourists’ misconceptions about Iran and keep them coming back.


26. Trans-Boundary Issues

One trans-boundary issue that has affected Iran for years is illegal immigration. Iran is a haven for many Afghanis escaping the Taliban regime of Afghanistan and Kurds and Iraqis escaping Sadaam Hussein’s tyranny in Iraq. In 2004, Iran was home to 1.2 million Afghani refugees and 124,014 refugees from Iraq, most of who are Kurdish. Another key trans-boundary issue is drugs. Iran is a key transfer point for heroin from Asia to Europe. In addition, opium from neighboring Afghanistan easily finds its way into Iran and into the hands of the approximately 2 million drug users in the country (CIA Factbook).

Visa issues are another issue for tourists wishing to visit Iran. For political reasons, holders of Israeli passports are refused entry under all circumstances.

27. Rights

Iran guarantees security for its tourists and foreign investors. It also ensures foreign tourists up to €1 million in medical coverage to assure tourists that their health is taken care of while visiting the country (“1 Million Euro Medical Coverage”, 2005).

eagle VII. Conclusion

28. Policy Implications


Tourism is a way to generate foreign income especially in developing countries. Iran’s relative newness to this industry makes it an ideal market to develop and plan tourism accurately. These things can make it a powerful competitor among the top tourism destinations and contribute significantly to the overall global tourism impact on economies. However a great pitfall that many developing countries experience is developing tourism too quickly. This can lead to inflation, leakage and skewed distribution of economic benefits, and cultural degradation. The existing world-class attractions, the WTO-assisted Tourism Development Master Plan, the many stakeholders, and the foreign expertise and investment that Iran is receiving can boost this country’s tourism industry, making its tourism planning, policy, and development optimal.

29. Recommendations

Iran needs to market actively to countries that it has good business and trade relations with. While visitors are given a seven-day tourist visa upon arrival, the length of stay needs to be increased to at least ten days to allow visitors to get a thorough glimpse of Iran’s attractions. Social issues such as hejab and alcohol use need new policies. These issues, however, need to be reformed gradually. Any sudden drastic reform will simply result in chaos. The government needs to consider offering free-trade zones on the main land as well instead of limiting them to the Iranian islands. Economic benefits should be distributed equally among all regions and stakeholders so as not to cause uneven development. The government should create educational programs so that sites such as Persepolis will be respected and not defaced. Finally, tourism is driven by the needs of the Western world, and stakeholders in Iran need to cater to these needs without compromising their own culture and values. Tourists visiting Iran are looking for genuine Iranian culture and that is exactly what should be provided. Help from foreign experts in infrastructure, policy-making, and improvements in public-private sector relationships will ease Iran’s entry into the global tourism industry.

30. Relevant Literature

Information about Iran’s Foreign Investment Protection Law: http://www.irtp.com/howto/foreig/mb13.asp
Information about Iran and traveling to Iran: http://www.itto.org

31. References

Pictures from Iran Tourism and Touring Organization: http://www.itto.org

1-Million-Euro Medical Coverage for Foreign Tourists in Iran. (2005). Retrieved April 11, 2005 from http://www.chn.ir/Tourism/English/ShowNews.asp?id=497

Accor Supervises Laleh International Hotel in Tehran (2005). Retrieved April 11, 2005 from http://www.chn.ir/Tourism/English/ShowNews.asp?id=489

Alavi, J., Yasin, M. (2000). Iran’s Tourism Potential and Market Realities: An Empirical Approach to Closing the Gap. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 9, 11-19

Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference. (2002) Iran’s Plans for Developing a Sustainable Environment for Ecotourism: Strengthening Management Principles and the Legislative Framework. Retrieved April 1, 2005 from http://www.world-tourism.org/sustainable/IYE/National_Activities/Maldives/iran.pdf

Census Information: www.census.gov

CIA Factbook: www.cia.gov

Cohh, M.R. (January 1998). Behind the Veil the Mystique of Ancient Persia Lingers in the Dawn of a Modern Iran. Toronto Star, p. G1. Retrieved April 10, 2005 from http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Base/1406/article.html

Dutch Professors Instruct Iranian Tour Guides. (2005). Retrieved April 11, 2005 from http://www.chn.ir/Tourism/English/ShowNews.asp?id=571

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