With a decree on August 21, 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed Ali Asqar Mounesan as the head of newly approved Iranian Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Heritage in Iran.
The appointment of Mounesan happened after a long wait of the tourism activists for the new ministry of tourism.
The parliament of Iran approved on July 15, 2019, the conversion of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran (ICCHO) into a ministry. Ali Asqar Mounesan was the vice president of ICCHO since 2017 and now continues his work as the Head of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage of Iran.
With the conversion of the Cultural Heritage Organization into a ministry, everyone expects more productivity and improvement in Iranian tourism management.
Difference between the Iranian Tourism Organization and the Iranian Ministry of Tourism
An organization is part of a ministry, while the ministry itself is a large unit comprising several organizations and departments. As organizations grow, they become independent ministries and encompass several organizations and departments. The Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran has become an independent ministry as it has undergone remarkable development and evolvement in the Iranian tourism industry.
The members of the Iranian parliament had scrutinized the issue of converting ICCHTO into an independent ministry since 2014 several times, but each time, some problem prevented them from ratifying the bill. Fortunately, by the effort of the tourism activists, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Iranian Parliament) ratified the conversion of ICCHTO converted to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism on July 15 with a total of 199 lawmakers present, 137 members voted in favor, 41 voted against and 21 abstained.
The Tasks of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization
From 1986 to 2019, ICCHTO handled the tourism affairs in Iran. The Iranian President appointed the Vice-President of this organization by his direct vote.
Among the tasks of this organization, we can mention the following tasks:
Introducing and promoting the cultural heritage of Iran;
- Managing the work among other organizations to introduce and promote the cultural heritage of Iran;
- Organizing and promoting domestic and foreign tourism, especially through the building facilities and planning of tourist sites with local artistic and architectural features;
- Providing and improving the entry points to the cities and passenger terminals;
- Providing suitable accommodation for all types of tourists with different budgets;
- Providing the facilities for hotel and lodging.
Now, with the Iranian Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Heritage, more is expected to happen. Certainly, the tourism authorities and other people in charge in Iran have such determination to promote tourism in Iran.
Tourism in Iran
One of the main concerns of each country’s tourism business is how to attract tourists from other countries. To achieve this index, many countries, such as Qatar, are striving to attract more tourists even by constructing attractive buildings, mansions, and sites. In addition, some countries such as Turkey, with ancient history, have devoted a part of their funding to attracting tourists and they were successful somehow.
Due to its rich history and culture, Iran has a very high capacity to develop its tourism industry. The ancient culture and history of Iran have led many people to visit the country and its valuable monuments and sites, as well as to get acquainted with Iranian culture and customs.
However, despite this attractive historical context, tourism in Iran is still in its infancy and has not achieved a suitable development due to its lack of good management and publicity. With the newly born Iranian Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Heritage, it must reach maturity soon.
According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Iran ranks 10th in terms of having archaeological and historical attractions and 5th in terms of natural attractions in the world. You can find several Iranian tangible and intangible cultural heritage instances inscribed in UNESCO’s List here. However, only about two million people choose to spend their holidays in Iran annually, while the global average of traveling around the world is 842,000,000 tourists a year.
There are many reasons for such weak tourism growth in Iran, but perhaps the most important is the poor and inadequate publicity in this field, as well as the lack of a suitable platform for domestic and foreign investment to build hotels and amenities in the tourism sector of Iran.
Having founded the Iranian Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Heritage, according to experts, Iran should be able to attract more investors due to its strongpoints in tourism, the most notable of which are:
- Distribution of tourist attractions in different parts of the country;
- High capacities of Iran in different types of tourism attractions (natural, historical, religious, therapeutic, and commercial);
- Environmental diversity of the country and natural resources such as mineral springs, forests, mountains, and rivers;
- Rich culture and history;
- Rich handicraft sector;
- Security for tourists;
- Support of Government and banking system from traveling to Iran;
- Religious sites of different religions; churches, tombs, and shrines of Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians;
- Sacred sites and shrines of Muslim people such as Imam Reza and Imamzadeh places (shrines) that attract Muslim tourists from neighboring countries;
- Good literacy rate in most tourist areas of the country;
- Cheap labor, energy, and services, and high demand;
- Competitive prices in terms of hotels, shopping, and food;
- And so on.
Advantages of Converting the ICCHTO to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism
By the foundation of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, the Iranian government expects to monitor the activities in the field of tourism as the Ministry of Tourism works directly under the supervision of the president.
On the other hand, with the increasing focus on the tourism industry, domestic and foreign investors will be encouraged to invest in the construction of hotels and tourism-recreational centers. Therefore, the tourism infrastructure will improve as well.
Despite US sanctions and the decline in the oil trade of Iran, the tourism industry can be a viable alternative to boosting the incomes of Iran. Iran hopes that the newly approved ministry contributes significantly to the attraction of tourists and improves the economy and employment in the country.