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Sustainable Development in Shiraz, Iran

Updated on August 22, 2014

Countries Across the Globe are Adopting Sustainable Development Practices to Improve Their Environment


The Growth of Sustainable Development Across the Globe

Sustainable development has become an innovate approach to supporting economic growth on a local, national, and global level. Countries all over the east and west are adapting sustainable development measures to help improve both their economy and their environment. “At the global level, the impacts of the human enterprise on the environment are increasing. By historical standards, the path from an “empty” to a “full” world has been remarkably swift. Most of the expansion took place in the last century in what has been called the “great acceleration.” In the 20th century, a 4-fold increase in human numbers was accompanied by a 40-fold increase in economic output and a 16-fold increase in fossil fuel use”. Despite its adequate resources however, Shiraz, Iran, a city rich in both tourism and oil, is struggling to keep up with the rest of the globe when it comes to sustainable development.

Tourism- the Economic Hub of Shiraz, Iran

Tourism has the potential to be a huge economic hub for Shiraz but tourism developers argue that politicians and residents within the city do not want to create new or existing economic growth in their community. Operational, structural and cultural barriers are currently preventing the city from thriving the way it can. The people of Shiraz have long rejected the idea of the majority of ethnic races traveling to their homeland as tourists with full accommodations. The people of Shiraz have a longstanding belief that the majority of ethnic races (e.g., White, Caucasian, British, Spanish, and Indians) with cultural differences have the tendency to take over the traditional lands as a vacation spot. The residents of Shiraz are protective of their land and are hesitant to allow visitors into to visit despite the extreme tourism market Shiraz offers to foreigners.. Meanwhile, many residents of Shiraz actually want to do business with tourists and locals throughout the city and struggle to understand the fear the locals have of foreigners coming to visit. The macro level of dealing with the issue of sustainability in Shiraz requires reconsideration in political and economic choices, and the micro level decisions require making changes with regards to socio-cultural and environmental necessities at tourist destinations throughout the city. Without a dynamic approach attacking both levels, Iran will never be able to get past their religious ideals that are holding them back from modernizing like the rest of the world.

Shiraz Has a Bustling Economy Yet a Small Footprint on the Environment


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Shiraz, Iran- A Country Divided

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the city of Shiraz is in south-western region of Iran about 125 miles or 20 Kilometers from the Persian Gulf. The country of Iran has cultural assets dating back over 10,000 years ago, such as historical monuments like those of Great Persian empires, the homeland of the Achaemenian and the Sassanian dynasties, as well as the Tombs of Hafiz, Saadi, Persepolis and Khaju e Kermani--- the founder of Islam’s advent beliefs. These monuments are gorgeous, historical buildings, famous for their story in history- in other words, great tourist attractions.

As the people of Shiraz challenged tourism developers, arguing that they have approximately 843,700 visitors out of 70,400 were foreigners (majority ethnic races), even though they lack the essential resources for tourism attraction (e.g., poor infrastructure facilities, inadequate transportation facilities, and poor education on tourism development)- tourism accessibility to new business ventures remained available for investment (Aref, 2011). The people in Shiraz were clearly divided on whether or not tourism was a good idea for the city.

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The Shiraz Residents, the Tourism Developers and the Politicians of Shiraz

The community tourism developers thought that the politicians of Shiraz did not have a keen interest in expanding their existing tourism business because they knew about the crude oil. Some thought that developing a tourism program was almost an attempt to fabricate costs for consumers and stakeholders in an effort to maximize profits and make tourism in Shiraz look more appealing to residents.

Others found this all to be unethical, while some did not give any of these theories two thoughts because they were not convinced that they were in any way based on the facts. The Shiraz residents, the tourism developers and the politicians of Shiraz were heavily divided on the entire idea of tourism in the city.

Shiraz Iran in Autumn

Oil in Shiraz, Iran

Oil has been a cause for war and violence in Iran for centuries. “Currently Iran possesses proven reserves of approximately 133 billion barrels of oil and 24 thousand billion cubic meters of natural gas. These constitute 11.6% and 15.6% of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves respectively. Iran has the second richest oil and gas reserves in the world” (Sabetghadam, 2005). If Iran and all of the other countries involved in the war over Iran’s oil could stop the fighting, Shiraz could be sitting on a sustainable development goldmine. However the people of Shiraz would still have to learn to accept the more western ways, allowing tourism in Shiraz despite much protest.

Map of Shiraz, Iran

Islam in Shiraz

Islam’s long-standing beliefs on the view of mind-body holism, collectivism, and the principles of naïve dialectics are culturally different from the western-style beliefs on individualism as both are not linked to one another- in terms of social change and sustainability. Iranians traditionally believed that they are obligated to be loyal and devoted to their ethnic race and families, and even desire not to [exploit] one’s personal weakness which leads to the thinking of losing interpersonal harmony within self and to others (Wong, 2011). In addition Iranians do not have the belief in borrowing different cultural traits that characterize the value of accommodation needs for tourists like the access to attractive destinations- they perceived this notion as an unimportant necessitate to implement a tourism program in their place of residency.. The odds that Iranians are being challenged by the belief in acculturation are deemed to be ambiguous. However, [it] was said that the culture of Iranians has this impression of their value of enculturation that defines their strongest belief in their traditional collectivism characteristics, and assimilates their practices, and explicates their values faithfully without having to borrow other cultural characteristics.

Shiraz Botanical Gardens

Language and Cultural Barriers in Shiraz

A solution to the tourism development process is desired in Iran and specially in Shiraz, due to the fact that sustainable development is becoming more and more ingrained in the economy and lifestyle of Europe and the European culture. However convincing those who live in Shiraz to accept foreign travelers has not been an easy feat.

Language and cultural barriers have caused issues in tourism succeeding in Shiraz. This implication refers to participants who did not acquire foreign language skills and did not gain the ability to develop knowledge base in controlling, planning, coordinating, and executing the tourism development projects effectively. Thus, the participant(s) lacks the ability to reveal the concept of internal autonomy; lacks the ability to gain public supports; and to inform the foreign investors to fund the tourism development programs (Aref, 2011). Most importantly, the participants are the stakeholders who should have assisted and contributed their expertise in the centralization of the public administration in the city.

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Can Shiraz Make a Change for the Better?

It is hoped that the Iranians can recognize the local power as a priority element of community development, increase focus on human resource development at the level that meets the standards of costs of living, delineate the ways to which the government can increase community capacity effectiveness in decision-making processes, and expand the authority figures capacity of government in the community.

Currently, a misshapen view of foreigners consumes and manipulates Iran’s social relations and norms as a form to facilitate the ability to make purchases, usages, and or disposal of tourism assets and products. This social change in behavior toward sustainability is a method for stakeholders to adapt the positive and negative outlook in tourism business. Metaphorically, a [positive] outlook is an ‘upstream’ method for tourism developers to eliminate the undesired results and create intervention plans that focus on maintaining Iranian’s social norms and support desired action in the context (Carrigan, 2011). Moreover, a support desired action plan is considered as the catalyst of Iranian’s societal context. The authors recommend this implication as the key for tourism developers to properly implement tourism in Shiraz, Iran. This action plan consists of four “upstream” intervention plans:

  • an owner of tourism business is to demonstrate the social responsible behavior
  • answer is to demonstrate the habitual situational cues including the behavioral irregularities and attitudes inconsistencies which this habitual situations can displays the ability to make social sustainable change
  • owner is to demonstrate the ability to implement environmental-friendly costs-of-living practices to other business merchants
  • owner is to understand the antics of diffusion theory in the context of societal change

Furthermore, the upstream intervention plans are highly recommended among authors and researchers for culturally specific population who are in dire need of a business plan structure.


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