“Iran Nomad Tours” is a social business working in the Iranian Ecotourism industry and aims to help preserve cultural diversities by facilitating the development of community-based tourism in partnership with the local community groups. In our first step, we began with Bakhtiari nomads; a main nomadic tribe who are indigenous people of Iran. We are trying for better branding of Iranian nomadic tourism, internationally. Here you can see a short report of our endeavor.
Although Iran has the highest population of nomads in the world, if you search for a nomad tour you will be guided to Morocco or Mongolia. We hope for a reborn of Iran nomadic tourism through new products such as Kuch tour or other ecotourism experiences. Due to the constraints of local community development and the training which should be delivered to the locals before hosting travelers, our grow-up speed is not so fast. and these small group eco-tours have limited availability each year.
Iran Nomad Tours vision
Iran nomad tours have chosen “preserving cultural diversities and the intangible assets by utilizing ecotourism as an Instrument for local community development” as its social goal and like any other business it should have enough income to sustain economically.
What problems are we trying to solve?
In Short, the problem is either “danger of extinction of traditional cultures” or “scarcity of CBT development which helps to preserve the cultural heritages from extinction”. In other words, the problem is the extinction of cultural diversities, especially the extinction of nomadic intangible assets. the reason is a lack of True development of “Community Based Tourism” or CBT among the Nomads and villagers in Iran. I will explain more in below:
Starting our activities goes back to around three years ago when we came across a group of Bakhtiari Nomads on their way to their summer pastures. Although they really liked their lifestyles & seasonal transhumance, they were somehow dissatisfied with some aspects of their life. In this video you can see how a nomad woman likes a nomadic-lifestyle for herself but does not like it for her son:
Are Iran nomads really fading away?
After that, we (Iran Nomad Tours) started conducting some researches. We found that 50 years ago, Iranian Nomads were one-quarter of the population of Iran. While today they are only 1.5% of the population. Consequently, this indigenous culture is threatened by extinction. ‘By their going to extinction, not only a cultural diversity is going to vanish, but also lots of their precious tacit knowledge goes away with them’, the knowledge which is accumulated during centuries and thousands of years. Nomads’ lifestyle is completely nature-based and they have the knowledge of using nature in a sustainable way. this knowledge can be quite helpful for human beings. Look at the trend of vegan people and environmentalists these days. They could learn a lot from traditional nomads if it does not go extinct.
As the population of Iran raised from about 15 million to about 80 million, in the last century, the nomad’s population decreased from 6 to about 1.5 million, nowadays. About one hundred years ago the estimates show that they made up to 40% of Iran’s population and now it is less than 2 %. Source: census data from the Statistical Centre of Iran
what anthropologists suggest?
All of these made us think about the issue and do research on them and the practical possible solutions. After consulting with some researchers who have already studied on nomads, we came to the conclusion that although at first glance, it seems that nomads are abandoning their tents and campsites due to the hardships of their lifestyle and low income, the main reason for the extinction of the culture among them is that they don’t have the self-esteem they need to have; they feel outdated, not suitable for the modern world. The fact that they are not aware of their unique lifestyle was quite thought-provoking. The financial problem was the second main issue they were dealing with.
Ecotourism as a solution to preserve diversity
We will facilitate the development of a community-based tourism model in partnership with the local community which could help them preserve their intangible assets or in general preserve cultural and sub-cultural diversities. In the near future, we want to be a platform for experience-based tours. but for the first step, we have started working with the Bakhtiari nomad, an ancient tribe in West of Iran, living in Zagros mountains. They migrate twice a year to provide their flocks with fresh grass, and we have made a pilot from the model in our mind. Now we are extending this model slowly to other nomadic tribes and other villages (cultural diversities) that are in danger of extinction hoping to protect them from extinction.
The main problem in rural areas is the lack of self-esteem about their life and about their precious cultural heritage. And Normally poverty is also a problem. “Iran Nomad Tours” belives ‘Community-based tourism’ can solve these two obstacles at the same time. It helps not only to better recognition and documentation of their lifestyle but also it would provide supplementary income for them and they’d see how everybody is appreciative of their lifestyle. In fact, it will make a mutual benefit for Bakhtiari nomads and those who want to experience something authentic which is in danger of extinction.
local community as a partner
In our work, we partner directly with the nomad communities, and villagers, so that we can pave the way for small groups of responsible visitors to kindle a sense of self-esteem in the nomads and villagers about their culture and traditions. Visitors seeking to experience the locals way of life and take home precious memories and those who wish to help the people believe their ancient lifestyle is precious and worth maintaining.
In Kuch tours with the Bakhtiari tribe, we will accompany nomads in their transhumance as the most iconic aspect of this lifestyle. We spend some nights with them, live their lives, help them with migration and earn a first-hand experience of their authentic lifestyle. Operating such a tour is a little complicated but completely fits ecotourism approaches. Assume the nomadic areas do not have mobile coverage and the nomad has no permanent place because of the nature of their lifestyle. isn’t it hard to manage a tour with them?
Our local community development model
“Iran Nomad Tours” normally follow the same role model in all our projects. Following you can read about its four steps. these steps are common in any ecotourism friendly project. In the last step, we come out and continue our role as a platform of experience based on local tours or marketplace for local handicrafts (in the future). so the local community will have enough time to internalize the changes and absorb the progress.
knowing better the village and the social system of people, then speaking with the influential ones and inviting people for a general meeting.
Step2- Facilitating Local Community Development Participatory Planning
As the rules of rural development require, we need to hold a general meeting with the villagers and after speaking about their needs and desires they would see if they want to develop tourism in their village or not. There would be more such meetings to reach more operational plans with the villagers. Moreover, in parallel with the meetings, we will try to increase the knowledge of locals about the tourism industry.
At this level, we need to concentrate on putting the decisions made in level 2 into practice. For sure it is the villagers who have the main role in performing the tasks and we are the facilitators. Building on the villagers’ own strengths, knowledge, and skills & working in partnership with them is at the heart of our goals.
Now, It would be of double benefit if we invite national & international volunteers to take active participation in the procedures. Doing so, not only accelerates the working process but also helps the villagers know more about ecotourism during the time they are working with each other in a friendly environment.
We can call a project of “developing community-based tourism” successful, if after the due time, and leaving the village, the works continue and the development processes have been internalized in the mindset of the nomad partners. So we should start transferring all the duties to the locals and continue our role as a platform of ecotourism.
What is Marketing strategy for Iran Nomad Tours?
If you search Nomadic tour you will be guided to Morocco or to Mongolia. However, Iran has the highest population of nomads in the world, while not so many all around the world are aware of this fact that there are still nomads in Iran. So, we have to undertake a great deal of marketing activities to introduce Iranian Nomads to potential travelers who are interested in adventure, culture, and nature. To do so, we have learned that the best strategies are to generate content about the nomad on our channels. another way is to invite influencers and well-known travelers to join our tours and help us spread the word.
Focus on Ecotourism as a bonus in marketing
As we are working with the local community people, it is a big bonus for us because we can benefit from lots of ecotourists who want to give something back to the locals… among the different Marketing channels, we gained more outcomes from cultural adventurers who do vlogging, blogging and taking photographs. They will produce valuable content and help us in its promotion. You can see some examples in our different channels (i.e. Youtube or Instagram). For spring 2020, we will host more of them who will help us to show Iran’s capacities in Ecotourism and nomadic tourism.