How Iran tourism may improve battered image?

A hidden gem and a backpacker’s dream, Iran holds vast potential as a holiday destination with stunning landscapes, numerous World Heritage sites, and above all, its hospitable people.

Iran (IMNA) - Dissenting voices do exist but the problem is the real face of Iran is galaxies away from the image the Western media has been trying to portray after the 1979 Islamic Revolution till the present time.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…,” wrote the American writer Mark Twain in the 1860s. The quote is well-matched by comments of those coming back from a trip to Iran!

On this matter, we encounter two completely different worlds, one is to assess the country based on social media and news articles while the second is to learn about it through visits to historical sites and experiencing the everyday lives of modern Iranians.

You may find, through the web or in person, countless travelers, who had developed mixed feelings about Iran before their arrival… attitudes, stereotypes, and perceptions that totally being changed when excursions to the Islamic Republic started.

"What? You are traveling to Iran? Why? It’s dangerous!"… those are the first things travelers may hear from their relatives when they are about to begin their Iran voyage. Well, it's, in fact, the complete opposite. Iran has been rated as safe as Germany, Sweden, Australia, and most European countries by the independent experts of "International SOS" in their 2019 Travel Risk Map, which shows the risk level around the world. They put Iran among countries with “insignificant risk” when it comes to security.

How Iran tourism may improve battered image?

New attitudes may include: “Quite a different perspective!”; “Iran is not (at all) what I thought it’d be like!”; “I am impressed how the media shows a different picture”; “Contrary to popular belief, Iran is extremely safe, with the friendliest people I’ve ever met”; “When we think about Iran, we tend to only think of negative things”; or “I previously thought it was dangerous considering some of the Western news”.

The reasons are numerous. Concerns about Iran’s nuclear program may be the major factor contributing to its semi-tarnished image though the country has always underlined that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring.

Furthermore, some enemies of the nation have always made their best to adjust propaganda machines to further batter that image under the pretext of humanitarian purposes.

All of the above elements can be discussed for hours and hours by social, political experts and philosophers but what really matters here is almost all passengers traveling to the Islamic Republic are absolutely fascinated with its charms, saying something like: “Wow, it’s the most misjudged country on Earth!”

The country is often portrayed as “one of the safest to travel” by most visitors who experienced it, particularly solo female travelers and families, and the Lonely Planet calls its people the “friendliest in the world.”

“My advice is: don’t believe what you hear on the news. Explore the place, talk to locals and come to your own conclusions. Come to Iran with an open mind and I guarantee you’ll make many great friends in Iran,” Polish traveler Anna Karsten wrote in her travelogue in 2020.

“To me, being uncomfortable once or twice doesn’t mean that the place is dangerous. I never once felt physically threatened, unsafe, or at risk, even when I was wandering the streets of Iran. I felt safer in Iran than if I was walking around in NYC. Even the tap water was safe in Iran!”

Ellis Veen, a cultural anthropologist from the Netherlands who has traveled for more than 20 years to over 50 countries along the ancient Silk Road, says: “After my visit to Iran one of the most frequent questions I got is whether it was safe for me to travel to Iran as a woman. My short answer would be yes and I would recommend Iran to anyone considering it.”

“Iran is one of the safest countries in the Middle East (West Asia) and Iranians are among the friendliest people I have met in my travel history.”

It's no surprise for those who are aware of Iranian culture and the great hospitality its people are famous for. Iranians are traditionally generous hosts giving the best of what they have to their guests. In traditional Iranian culture, guests are cherished like precious jewels. It is here in Iran that a typical invitation for a cup of tea can be extended to an overnight stay, or a humble asking for directions may forge a warm friendship.

How Iran tourism may improve battered image?

On the official side, Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami says tour guides have considerable potential to foil anti-Iranian sentiment, also known as Iranophobia.

“Iranian tour guides by expressing the country can fight against the so-called Iranophobia, which certain countries are trying to spread,” Zarghami last month in an address to the International Tourist Guide Day.

Long shunned by Western travelers, the Islamic Republic has steadily stepped-up efforts to use tourism, over the past couple of years, to help promote its international image battered by endless opposition mostly from the U.S.

Before the COVID pandemic, Iran tourism had constantly been growing, reaching more than eight million visitors in the Iranian calendar year 1398 (started March 21, 2019). That surge, however, helped prejudices to become thick and thin.

Some experts believe even before the pandemic, Iran’s tourism was already grappling with some challenges, on top of those Western “media propaganda” aimed at scaring potential travelers away from the Islamic Republic. They say Iran is still somehow “unknown” for many potential travelers due to such a “media war”.


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