Iran is among the world’s top 10 countries in terms of capacity for attracting tourists, the director of Iran’s cultural heritage and tourism organization, Masoud Soltanifar says.

However, the country has a meager share of $5-6 billion of the world’s $6.5 trillion tourism income in 2013, the official said, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported.

He also went on to note that world’s hotel revenues were approximately $500 billion in 2013.

Referring to the country’s historical, natural and cultural tourism attractions, Soltanifar said that Iran shares one percent of the world’s population and area, so the country is expected to earn $12 to $13 billion via tourism.

The official remarked that due to “international sanctions, some restrictions and neglecting the potentials, unfortunately the country was not able to use its capacities in the tourism sector.

According to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) latest annual report, released on June 17, 1087 million tourists traveled the world in 2013, up by 5 percent from 1,035 million in 2012.

Europe, which accounts for 52 percent of all international tourism receipts, welcomed 563 million tourists in 2013 and remained the most visited region in the world, the report reads.

In relative terms, the share of Asia and the Pacific stood at 23 percent where the number of international tourists reached 248 million, meanwhile the Middle East shared 5 percent of international tourist arrivals in 2013 (52 million, not changed from 2012).

The report also forecasts that the number of the tourists travel the world will increase by 5 percent in 2014.

France, the US, Spain, China, Italy, Turkey, Germany, the UK, Russia and Thailand were the 10 top tourist hubs in 2013.

Total export earnings generated by international tourism in 2013 reached $1.4 trillion. Receipts earned by destinations from international visitors grew by 5 percent to reach $1159 billion, while an additional $218 billion was earned by international passenger transport, according to the UNWTO.

Masoud Soltanifar stressed that in recent months the number of tourists visited Iran has increased significantly. Earlier in May Iranian media outlets quoted Soltanifar as saying over 4.5 million foreign tourists mainly from neighbouring countries, including one million from Azerbaijan and 1.6 million from Iraq visited Iran in 2013.

The official said that 7 million Iranians traveled to other countries in the period, of that amount 2.2 million visited Iraq and 600,000 went to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.

Iran gained $5 billion from incoming tourists in 2013, meanwhile Iranian tourists spent about $10 billion while travelling to other countries, he added.

Tags: iran, tourism
Photo Credit: The Imam Khomeini Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. seier+seier / Flickr