Iran’s coastal regions have the potential to attract 3 million foreign visitors a year, says an official at the Department of Environment.
According to Parvin Farshchi, deputy for marine environments, Iran is banking on its coastal and marine tourism potentials to achieve its 2025 target of attracting 20 million tourists annually, ILNA reported.
“This can only be made possible if marine tourism plans are implemented properly and in a timely fashion,” she added.
While the DOE has adopted a hard line against developing tourism in environmentally-sensitive areas, officials such as Farshchi have not shied away from promoting sustainable tourism.
Reportedly, over 70% of tourism development plans in the sixth five-year development plan (2016-21) are related to marine tourism.
“Developing infrastructure is integral to hitting the mark,” Farshchi said, adding that Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, which borders the Caspian Sea, is one of the key areas of development.
Last March, Spain’s Melia Hotels International announced plans to open a five-star hotel in Salman-Shahr, Mazandaran Province. Slated to open in 2017, the 130-meter tower by the Caspian Sea will be Iran’s first foreign-branded seaside hotel in almost 40 years.
Despite the fact that turning coastal cities into marine tourism hubs has been a priority of past administrations, the sector is only responsible for 1% of national employment and production.
“That is negligible compared to the industry’s massive capacities,” Farshchi said.
“Thankfully, the government has allotted a decent budget to develop the sector.”
Statistics published by the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development show that the number of marine tourists has been rising in the past few years. Over 7.2 million sea travelers used the country’s ports in the first four months of the current Iranian year (started March 20, 2016), which shows a 1.6% increase compared with the same period of last year.
Uncertainty about the future of marine travel across the Caspian Sea to neighboring countries has left both policymakers and investors wondering whether the goal is achievable or hopes must be placed only on the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s southern borders are responsible for the bulk of that figure; a testament to the fact that proper planning and extensive investment in the sector can pay off.
The launch of a marine route between Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf and Oman is an example of effective measures taken by officials to develop marine tourism in the south. However, experts believe that the potential of southern seas has not yet been fully exploited.