Tour operators are now obliged to adhere to ecotourism regulations updated by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.
The news comes just a few days after new adventure tourism regulations were announced.
Travel agencies used to conduct ecotours without the organization’s approval, which proved to be detrimental to the environment, Mehr News Agency reported.
In line with Iran’s tourism goals for becoming a top tourist destination, ICHHTO officials consulted Iran Tourist Guides Association and environmentalists to update and enforce ecotourism regulations.
“The updated regulations address tourist rights and regional requirements,” said Mohammad Ali Fayyazi, director general of Iran’s National Ecotourism Committee.
Previously, tourists had no choice but to sign contracts devised by individual travel agencies, which were not approved by the organization. What that meant was that if tourists were not offered the services touted by the travel agency, they could not file a complaint.
However, the regulations now ensure travel agencies’ compliance with the rules, and if they fail to offer services outlined in the contracts, they will be held accountable.
Fayyazi said the contracts clearly outline the obligations of the travel agency as well as tourists.
“Tourists must strive to protect the environment and respect local customs and traditions.”
Furthermore, tour guides must now be certified by ICHHTO to ensure tourists’ safety, Fayyazi said.
The updated regulations apply to 14 types of ecotours, including caving, desert tourism, bird watching, as well as rock, mountain and ice climbing. Rules on how to conduct winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and sleighing are also covered.
“Regulations for sports that are not popular in Iran but are highly sought-after internationally have also been updated,” Fayyazi noted.
He said ecotourism regions have been mapped out and divided based on type of activity.
Interested in stargazing? Visit a travel agency to find out where to go.
Trekking and biking trails have also been designated, Fayyazi said, adding that the scenic Tochal-Velenjak mountain trail has always attracted European tourists.
Updating ecotourism regulations is a step forward for Iran, since developing specialized tourism is a major part of the country’s tourism plans.
In June, Fayyazi urged the Department of Environment to approve a proposal to facilitate ecotourism investment in protected areas. The department divides protected areas into four categories: National parks, natural monuments, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation areas.
The DOE’s reluctance to approve ecotourism proposals stems from its concerns for the environment.