Qeshm enlisting JICA help to develop travel industry

Tourism industry is the gateway to Qeshm Island for foreign investors, according to Meysam Rafie’ Parhizkar, director of strategic planning at Qeshm Free Zone Organization.

He made the remarks at a seminar on “Tourist Attractions and Investment Opportunities in Qeshm” last week at the Iranian Embassy in Japan, attended by representatives from the QFZO and senior officials from Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“The island’s numerous tourist attractions provide lucrative investment opportunities for foreign investors,” he said, qeshm.ir reported.

Iranian Ambassador to Japan Reza Nazar-Ahari said cooperation with Japan will help Iran develop various profitable sectors, including tourism.

“Japan’s economists and JICA will play a key role in economic growth of Qeshm Island,” he said.

He stressed the importance of setting up a joint Iran-Japan cooperation office with a focus on relations between JICA and QFZO to speed up the process of future collaborations.

The Persian Gulf island boasts the Middle East’s first UNESCO-listed geopark. Aside from the sandy beaches and the largest salt cave worldwide, the island’s famed mangrove forests in the Hara Protected Area draw large numbers of domestic and foreign tourists.

The area is one of five forests in Hormozgan Province and arguably the most important feature of Qeshm Geopark. With an area of 85,686 hectares, Hara is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

“Additionally, the diverse range of water sports available on the island and its strategic geographical location could turn Qeshm into the country’s hub for water activities,” added Parhizkar, who is also senior advisor at QFZO.

He was confident that developing the island’s tourism infrastructure “will undoubtedly” draw more visitors and positively impact the economy.

Sustainable Tourism Destination

In an earlier meeting in Tokyo between JICA officials and a visiting delegation from QFZO, the Japanese side had expressed interest in various sectors on the island.

“Given JICA’s eagerness to share knowhow in the field (of tourism), cooperation could help turn the island into a top destination for sustainable tourism,” said Parhizkar.

In June 2015, Hamid Reza Momeni, the managing director of QFZO, and Kohei Sato, chief representative of JICA’s Iran office, signed an agreement in Tehran to launch a joint project aimed at turning Qeshm into an “eco island resort” through sustainable development.

Based on the agreement, JICA will transfer its experience and knowledge to QFZO in an effort to help improve the quality of life of the locals and augment sustainability.

Last December JICA launched an extensive study of four major investment areas in Qeshm, namely tourism, fishing, wastewater, and solid waste management, with a special focus on environmental conservation.

Once successfully implemented, the JICA project is expected to “increase household income through ecotourism, improve women’s social status through participation in economic activities, reduce the environmental impact of tourism, and curb the negative effects of industrial development and population growth in the production of solid waste and wastewater,” Parhizkar noted.

Established in 1974, JICA aims to contribute to the promotion of international cooperation as well as the sound development of Japanese and global economy by supporting the socioeconomic development, recovery or economic stability of developing regions.

By Financial Tribune