a handicraft shop in Imam square in Isfahan and three man there one with wheelchair.

Responsible Travel in Iran

What Makes You & I Sustainable Travelers

Introduction

The story of our journeys and our interest in “responsible travel in Iran” go back to 2004 when we began our expedition to all around Iran. First, the classic route and then to less known areas. Why? Because our sense of adventure craved more and more. The more we saw, the more we wished to discover. For years, we were both studying and exploring. We wanted to discover the hidden gems; the mighty mountains, majestic valleys, historic villages, truly pristine nature, the indigenous people, etc. Back then, we were just adventure seekers who wished to make our dreams come true. We traveled everywhere because ‘they were there’.[George Mallory; ‘why did you want to climb Mount Everest?’ ‘Because it’s there’]

After a while, we found locals and their singular culture even more appealing. For the following years, we were mostly in villages among the locals. At first, everything was going fine; we were running the development projects, and the locals were helping us. But, when we stayed more with them, the fantasy world we had in mind faded way, and the grim reality emerged. We noticed how sometimes some well-intended efforts might turn out to have negative effects on local people’s life. More important, how locals are being affected by the inattentive behaviors of visitors and tourists. That was an epiphanic moment for us. We noticed how a tourist’s seemingly neutral talk of her wedding party from a developed country could be thoroughly damaging to a young local girl who has been in a small village since she was born.

So, it was like a wake-up call. This and some other concerns helped us make our mindset. Although at first, we just wished to live up to our adventurous creed, now we wanted something more as well. After years of knowing the locals, travelers, and their mutual interactions, we gradually came up with some simple but important principles for our trips.

  • Not just visiting, but living with locals.
  • Having the least effects on communities.
  • Preservation of the indigenous people & their cultures.
  • Preservation of the Mother Earth.
  • Last but not least, locals have a say in the decision-making process. Plus, they must have a fair share of everything.

Healthy Relationship with Locals & Nature

No doubt these days, people travel around the world much easier than the past. So it goes without saying how vital it is to leave no trace when we leave a place. We’ve got to wake up to the fact that we have to be responsible both to nature & people. Otherwise, we’d face devastating long-term effects.
Iran benefits from diverse and rich cultures and environments; that’s why it has become one of the main attractions for those who wish to experience its unique, authentic beauties. When we say, we seek to be ‘responsible’ or improve ‘responsible and sustainable tourism in Iran’, we wish to let the future travelers enjoy what we are experiencing now by having the least possible effects on people and nature.

On our Way to the Reach Sustainability

During the years, we were traveling all around Iran. We got to know more about the way we can practice ‘responsible traveling in Iran’. Little by little, we came up with some basic principles and guidelines both for ourselves and our partners. Now, as an ethical travel company that is offering incoming tours for foreigners, we are pioneering the ‘responsible and sustainable tourism’ in Iran. We know we have a long concerning long way to take, but we are determined to reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves. We know a holistic approach is needed to promote responsible tourism in Iran, and we have projects to promote the concept among other stakeholders including policymakers. But, more importantly, we firmly believe one of the pillars of IranAmaze must be based on the principles of ‘responsible traveling in Iran’ to make this land a responsible travel destination.

Our Responsible Travel Policies

Respecting destinations and local culture

To know the world better, we need to have a better understanding of the people, their culture, and where they live. And the best way would be by seeing, engaging, and living with different people. As a guest in destinations, and as an Iran responsible tour operator, we care about our cultural interaction with local communities.

So we:

  • Know and respect the etiquette and customs of our destinations.
  • Respect their lifestyles, religions, and rituals.
  • Support local festivals and customs by promoting and designing tours, including them.
  • Would facilitate the cultural interactions in distant areas and make sure it happens in the best way possible.
  • Encourage our travelers to have interaction with the locals so that they can have a better understanding of the local way of life.

Preserving the environment

We care about the environment, but as a developing country, Iran is facing lots of environmental problems such as environmental pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water crises. So, as an eco-friendly travel agency, we are doing our best to have a limited impact on the environment and reduce the negative impacts whenever possible.

So we:

  • Appreciate the wildlife and don’t disturb wildlife or plants just for a better look.
  • Understand the environmental issues in each destination
  • Leave nothing behind in nature, and encourage others not to do so.
  • Offer small group and private tours in nature to minimize our impacts.
  • Try to use well maintained and fuel-efficient vehicles/fleets as much as possible.
  • Minimize the consumption of plastic on our trips.
  • Encourage our suppliers to adopt more sustainable practices.
  • Tell our travelers about the restaurant’s portion’s volumes so that the food waste would be minimized.
  • Use less paper by banning unnecessary prints like itineraries.

Supporting local people and economies

What we really seek to do is to empower the locals and help them prosper. By involving locals in our destinations, we are trying to share the benefits of the tourism industry with the local community by creating more job opportunities for them. In fact, the money goes into circulation in Iran’s economy and benefits the locals in general.

So we:

  • Spend our money, where it can have the best positive effects.
  • Hire local drivers and guides and pay them fairly.
  • Include some meals at cozy local restaurants.
  • Stay one or two nights at local guesthouses.
  • Encourage our travelers to buy from local suppliers and use local services & goods.
  • Benefit people in more remote areas by designing tours to off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Promoting Responsible Travel in Iran

We know we need to take care of our finite planet. We know how limited our resources are. We wish to use less and to make more. As a small independent Iran responsible travel company that is offering private and small-group tours, our impact is so limited. But as a pioneering responsible travel company in Iran, we are promoting the concept of sustainable tourism and responsible traveling in Iran, among different stakeholders to increase our positive impact.

So we:

  • Train our staff and share our values with all of our partners.
  • Provide our travelers with the necessary information about ‘responsible traveling’ and ‘sustainable tourism’.
  • Suggest sustainable hotel practices for hotels that we choose to work with.
  • Hold events to encourage other tour operators in Iran to care about responsible and sustainable tourism in Iran.
  • Promote and recommend responsible travel to policymakers with the help of our partner ‘Sharif Policy Research Institute’.
  • Provide our drivers with responsible travel guidelines.
  • Choose our partners concerning how responsible they are.

Our Projects

Supporting underprivileged groups asoode mavaa

Supporting underprivileged groups

Helping disadvantaged has always been our concern. We have NGO partners in Isfahan who work with marginalized groups of society, such as female-headed households who suffer from unequal job opportunities. But how we’re going to support them?
Buying souvenirs is always a fun part of traveling. We like to share this joy with underprivileged people and empower them. Besides visiting famous bazaars, we encourage our travelers to visit the exhibitions of these NGOs and help them by purchasing some of their souvenirs from people who need protection rather than the well-off.

Educating child in labour Sobhe Rouyesh school

Educating child in labour

Hopefully, child labour are not abundant in Iran. But, during a trip, travelers might come across child labour in the streets. Considering the fact that giving money to them would be of no help, we’ve come up with another way of supporting them. We have an expert partner who works on this social problem: ‘Sobhe Rouyesh Educational Center’, for Child Labour. What this institute have done is creating an infrastructure to educate child labor and make a healthy environment for them. We encourage those travelers who wish to help these children to donate to this center, instead of giving money directly to street children.

Developing tourism in Lake Urmia river basin

Developing tourism in Lake Urmia river basin

Urmia Lake – once the biggest lake in Iran – is located in the north-west of Iran. This lake started to dry in the mid-1990s, and only 12% of its area remained by 2015. This situation has multiple impacts, from dust pollution to social unrest. As the researches of Urmia Lake Restoration Program(ULRP) shows, of the most important ways for reviving this lake is to develop tourism in the river basin. This would increase the income of locals, so ULRP could decrease water consumption by limiting agriculture in the region. We are designing and offering tours, especially for the Lake Urmia river basin, to take part in this national-environmental project.

Future Projects

Iran Responsible travel events

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism in Iran are relatively new concepts. By organizing events, we want to make these concepts known to stakeholders such as policymakers, travel agencies, students, NGOs, hotels, tourists. Moreover, we will try to advertise these events on media to heighten our influence. These events would be held with the cooperation of our partners like the School of Sustainable Development.

Promoting sustainable practices for hotels

As a tour operator, hotels with high standards of sustainability are on our priority list. However, we found zero hotels in Iran to meet the required criteria. So, we came up with the result that as our first step, we need to promote green hoteling in some of the hotels we work with. In other words, what we need to do is to have some meetings with them so that we can provide them with the related content about the desired practices and measures concerning responsible and sustainable tourism in Iran.

Funding research projects for promoting responsible travel in the policy area of Iran

As I am writing this, a bill passed in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Iranian parliament) to establish a new ministry for tourism. At this stage, we firmly believe that it is necessary to inform the policymakers of the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism in Iran. With the help of our prestigious partner, Sharif Policy Research Institute, we like to have an impact on tourism policy in Iran.

Tips for Iran Responsible Traveling

If you are coming to Iran, it’s good to read these tips beforehand:

  • Read about Iran dress code and basic rules in your destinations in advance.
  • Before starting your trip, learn about Iran etiquettes. Different areas, especially far-away districts, may have different customs. Don’t hesitate to ask locals if you have any questions.
  • Iranian are well-known for hospitality. They accept foreigners as their guests with open arms.
  • Learning some Farsi words would be of great help. It would help you socialize with local people.
  • Making friends with the locals makes it easier to gain a more in-depth experience of their culture & society.
  • By choosing local businesses like restaurants, hotels, and other services offered by locals, you are not only supporting them, but also gain more in-depth experience with locals.
  • Shop locally made products from traditional artisans. It would help to keep traditional crafts alive.
  • Before photographing or videoing people first ask for permission. It is also a good idea to make a two-way exchange with the locals by sending them back copies of photos.
  • Don’t give money to beggars, children, and people you have just met. Your help would be helpful if and only if you can contribute to recognized charities instead. (example: Sobhe Rouyesh Educational Center for Child Labor)
  • Iran is a big consumer of plastic. Use less plastic and encourage others to do so.

If you are interested in one of our tour packages, check out the responsible travel section.

Our Sustainable Tourism Partners

The logo of Sharif Policy Research Institute

Sharif Policy Research Institute

Sharif Policy Research Institute is located at the heart of the Sharif University of Technology, one of the top-ranked universities in the Middle East. It established to engage directly in the complex grand challenges of its surrounding community. This institute focuses on economic, social, and cultural aspects of development, innovation, and society with a policy-oriented and problem-solving approach. We work together to influence the tourism policy sphere in Iran to make it more sustainable.

Logo of the Sustainable Development School

Sustainable Development School

The School of Sustainable Development promotes sustainable development among different stakeholders in different sectors in Iran. By designing and running a variety of programs, the school helps to develop the country’s human capacity in this field. We like to promote responsible traveling and sustainable tourism among different stakeholders including travel agencies, hotels and etc. Holding public events, translating books, and writing handbooks are some of our partnership topics.

The logo of Sobhe Rouyesh Educational Center for Child Labourers

Sobhe Rouyesh Educational Center for Child Labourers

In 2015 Sobhe Rouyesh started as the first specialized school for child labor. It aims to educate children about child labor, addiction, and crime so that they can escape the poverty trap. Today, Sobhe Rouyesh is a leading and well-known NGO in Iran and has inspired many others in this field. As their partner, our travelers have a chance to donate to the school to tackle the child labor problem more sustainably.