WANA (July 16) – Iran, a country with a rich cultural heritage, superb cuisine, and extensive Islamic attractions, is a dream destination for any true tourist. The country benefits from a wide range of landscapes, from seacoasts and lush green woods to towering mountains and harsh deserts.


But for various reasons, this huge potential has not been discovered globally, not coming close to the fame of destinations like Italy or India.


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 media propaganda, mostly from the U.S., among other things.


The Iranian tourism minister Ezzatollah Zarghami said earlier this year:

“Designing an Iranophobia project and presenting a negative image of Iran in some media outlets is one of the obstacles to attracting foreign tourists,”


Business Insider and Bloomberg have named Iran among the “Top 50” and “Top 20” destinations to visit in 2017 due to security and the country’s ancient architecture, famous bazaars, and natural beauty.

An Iranian girl takes a selfie, ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, March 20, in Tehran, Iran March 10, 2021. Picture taken March 10, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency)

An Iranian girl takes a selfie ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, March 20, in Tehran, Iran, March 10, 2021. Picture taken March 10, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency)

In addition to the media war on the Islamic Republic, other problems have been reported in attracting tourists worldwide, especially from Western countries, like the complex visa process, customary restrictions on women’s dressing, prohibition of alcohol consumption, etc.


But for people looking to experience a completely different culture and lifestyle, these obstacles will not prevent them from pursuing this gem of a destination.


The sanctions on Iran are also another barrier to traveling to Iran. For example, international credit cards do not work in Iran, and online transactions are non-existent.  The Iranian aviation industry is also facing multiple sanctions – originally imposed by the United States – These sanctions have denied Iranian airliners access to modern technology, recently manufactured aircraft, maintenance for their fleet, and other services.


Still, A deputy head of the Iranian tourism ministry (MCTH) says Iran’s annual tourism revenues have reached $6.2 billion, adding that tourism is becoming a major source of earning hard currency for the country.


This comes mostly from foreigners coming to Iran for religious reasons.  Muslims around the world know Iran as a destination for pilgrimage to holy sites such as the shrine of Imam Reza (AS) in the city of Mashad, which is one of the most sacred places for Shia Muslims. With “halal tourism” growing, Iran has huge potential to thrive in that area.


Available data suggest that the global halal tourism market holds a forecasted revenue of $255 billion in 2022 and is likely to reach $365 billion by the end of 2032.

Astara city, Gilan Province. Social Media / WANA News Agency

Astara city, Gilan Province. Social Media / WANA News Agency

Halal tourism is a branch of tourism catering to the needs of Muslims, holding Islamic law (Shariah) as the basis for delivering tourism products and services, such as Halal hotels (Shariah-compliant hotels), Halal Resorts, Halal restaurants, and Halal trips.


Travelers can enjoy authentic Iranian cuisine prepared to keep Islamic guidelines in mind. Prayer facilities are available everywhere. Additionally, hotels in Iran cater to halal tourism and provide separate facilities for men and women.


Tourism has become a focus of Iran’s efforts to diversify its economy from crude revenues in recent years. The policy is meant to offset the impacts of US sanctions on the Iranian oil sector and create more jobs for the country’s youth.


The Iranian government also seeks to expand its visa waiver program to cover visitors from more than 60 new countries. As a wallet-friendly destination with hospitable people, Iran has long been a desired destination for nature lovers, birdwatchers, powder chasers, culture devotees, pilgrims, museum-goers, foodies, adventurers, and medical travelers, to name a few.

WANA writer / F. Fazaeli / July 16, 2023