Iran to target religious tourism
Tourism is considered the most varied service industry in the world such that its role in sustainable development of nations is undeniable. It helps people of different cultures understand each other despite the social and political unrests.
Announcing this, Manouchehr Jahanian, the deputy head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, said religious tourism plays a more important role in the economic growth of nations than any other type of tourism, according to global statistics, CHTN reported.
“Pilgrimage is identified by international tourism organizations, such as UNWTO, as the main motive for travelling,” he said.
Jahanian said most foreign tourists travelling to Iran are interested in religious sites because they are linked with Iran’s traditional lifestyle.
“The negative propaganda against Iran by certain media outlets have declined the number of tourists to some extent,” he said, adding that Iran should target religious groups, particularly Muslims, to reinforce its tourism industry.
Jahanian said Iran’s tourism organization has prepared a plan to convert three cities, namely Mashhad, Qom and Shiraz, into Free Religious Zones to attract more pilgrims from regional states.
“Pilgrims travelling to these cities won’t need visa,” he said, pointing out that the scheme is awaiting government approval.
Masoud Montajabi, the head of Mashahd Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, said Mashhad is considered the most important religious city in Iran.
“Almost all foreigners travelling to Mashhad are pilgrims from neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan,” he said.
Alireza Arjomandi, the head of Qom Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Department, pointed to the large number of domestic tourists visiting Qom and said Muslims around the world have become more sensitive about their religious identity and are trying to revive it by travelling to religious sites.
“Because Iran is known in the world as the hub of Shiites, more activities should be taken to develop religious tourism,” he said.
The official noted that elimination of visa requirements for Muslim individuals is a positive step for increasing Iran’s religious tourism potential.
Arjomandi said Qom is ready to be introduced as the pilot city in this regard.
Fereydoon Fa’ali, the head of Fars Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, said Shiraz, along with many historical sites that appeal to foreign tourists, boasts of many religious sites and attract Muslims from Persian Gulf states annually.
“Expansion of religious tourism in Shiraz will help attract foreign investors from these countries as well,” he said.