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2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar can trigger rise of Iran’s tourism industry

Kish Island has also been known as the 'Pearl of the Persian Gulf' since ancient times. Proximity to Qatar will encourage spectators and teams to stay there during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (All images courtesy: Ministry of Tourism, Iran)

Iran is planning to use the 2022 Qatar World Cup – the first FIFA World Cup to be organised in the Middle East and the Arab World – to promote its sports and tourism capacities in a big way.

The Iranian tourism authorities have identified the country's free zones, especially the Kish Free Zone on the coral island of Kish in the strategic Persian Gulf region, to attract the 2022 Qatar World Cup tourists and participants.
In a meeting held at the Secretariat of the Supreme Council of Free Trade, Economic and Special Economic Zones in Tehran on Monday, Iran's deputy tourism minister Ali Asghar Shalbafian called the holding of the World Cup in Qatar a special opportunity for his country.

With the Directors of culture, social and tourism from the Aras, Arvand, Anzali, Chabahar, Kish, Qeshm and Mako free zones in attendance, Shalbafian said that the region can be among the islands known to tourists worldwide.

Having a long history of about 3000 years, Kish Island has also been known as the 'Pearl of the Persian Gulf' since ancient times. It is ranked among the world's 10 most beautiful islands and is also the third most visited vacation destination in the Middle East.


Besides promoting its cultural, natural and historical attractions, including the sites in Shiraz and Isfahan, Iran wants to use the 2022 sporting extravaganza in Qatar to make people familiar with the unseen face of its heritage.

The Kish Free Zone Organisation believes that the proximity of Kish to Qatar, coupled with a lower cost of staying on the island, will encourage spectators and teams to stay here during the World Cup.

As many as 4000 rooms are already being prepared in Kish to accommodate Iranians and foreigners attending the event.

It will also help Tehran, which has been working on a policy to use its historical assets in strengthening relations with neighbouring countries, to pursue diplomacy through tourism tools much more extensively.  

After opening its airspace for foreign tourists, Iranian authorities are now seriously mulling over the possibility of creating a flight hub or distribution centre for flights through the Kish Free Zone before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, next November.

"Proximity to the country's borders has made it possible for the country's free zones to focus on tourism target markets and can lead to integrated movement and purposeful use of international relations," Shalbafian told the heads of the country's free zones.

Iran Tourism

Deputy Minister for Tourism of Iran, Ali Asghar Shalbafian

Pinning big hopes on the Qatar soccer World Cup, Tehran remains quite optimistic that the flow of foreign tourists will resume at its numerous UNESCO-registered sites, next year.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the floods before that, has severely impacted Iran's tourism and hospitality industry.

The country's Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts, quoting a report from news agency IRNA, said today that the Iranian hoteliers have lost 220 trillion rials (about $740 million) over the past two years.

"The main destinations of foreign tourists in Iran are specifically cities such as Mashhad, Qom, Tabriz, Shiraz, Yazd, and Isfahan, and to return to the figure of over eight million incoming tourists before the outbreak of the coronavirus, serious planning is required," the report quoted Jamshid Hamzehzadeh, the head of the Iranian Hoteliers Association, as saying.

In a bid to reinvigorate the industry, Tehran has also told its ambassadors and representatives in countries all over the world to "activate" Iranian tourism agencies overseas.

The country would also be dispatching 40 tourism advisors to other nations, Shalbafian told directors of the hotel owners associations in a meeting held at Qeshm Island on Sunday.  

"The tourism ministry also plans to prepare attractive content in different languages to be used by Iranian embassies in other countries," said Shalbafian.

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