0719 GMT December 05, 2019
About 600 NGOs are involved in the field of cultural heritage, handicrafts and tourism in Iran, of which about 400 — with about 151,195 members — are tourism NGOs, said the director general of NGOs and Assemblies Bureau of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO).
Hossein Allah-Bedashti further told Iran Daily that 175 out of the total 600 NGOs have received permission from Iran’s Interior Ministry.
He said 381 NGOs are operational in the provinces, while 101 and 31 are operating at the national and international levels respectively.
“The majority of such NGOs are in Tehran, Fars, Isfahan, Yazd and Gilan provinces to promote ecotourism, rural tourism, mountaineering, cave expedition, ethnic culture and also safeguard the environment,” he said.
In addition to tourism NGOs, several friendship associations are active in Iran, which can also help promote tourism.
Allah-Bedashti said the ICHHTO identified the NGOs as the first step to promoting tourism.
“Educational classes are to be organized, as the next step, to empower the NGOs,” he said.
The official said Iran plans to attract about 20 million foreign tourists by 2025 to achieve the objectives of the Sixth Five-Year Economic Developmental Plan (2015-2020).
“More tourism facilities should be established to meet the needs of such high number of potential tourists,” he said, adding NGOs play an important role in this respect.
Allah-Bedashti said ‘Houses of NGOs’, which have been set up in all provinces, aim to increase collaboration among the NGOs to help them make the best decisions on tourism and cultural heritage.
He, however, said the NGOs do not expect any financial support from the government, as receiving any fund from governmental organizations is against the goals of NGOs.
“Although the government cannot financially support NGOs, it will try to help them overcome any obstacle that they may face,” Allah-Bedashti said.
“None of Iran’s natural attractions have to date been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, although the country ranks fifth in terms of rich biodiversity and natural attractions worldwide,” he said.
The official highlighted the key role of NGOs and local citizens in publicizing Iran’s tourist attractions and drawing international attention to these unique features.
“NGOs, in developed nations, have been successful in promoting rural and natural tourism,” he said.
Allah-Bedashti said global revenues from tourism stood at $1,250 billion worldwide two years ago, noting that Iran’s share was more than $6 billion.
“Growth in revenues generated from tourism — which is tied to the active role of tourism NGOs — can play a key role in national development,” he concluded.