Iran is required to attract more than 20 million tourists by 2025 as envisaged in the context of the Sixth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2016-2020).
This is not an unattainable target in the light of the fact that the country’s provinces boast 19 tourist attractions, which are registered on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, in addition to thousands of natural and historical tourist attractions.
Although, international sanctions and Western media’s negative propaganda have adversely impacted Iran’s tourism industry in the past few years, the irresistible attractiveness of the country’s tourist resorts have always lured foreign tourists to the country even during the years of stringent embargoes.
In addition to the large number of tourists currently flocking to Iran’s historical and natural sites, scores of political and trade delegations are, at present, being provided accommodation at the country’s top hotels as well as facilities for holding meetings with Iranian counterparts, thanks to the removal of the sanctions.
Although Iranian provinces are equipped with favorable tourism infrastructures, it is a herculean task to address the needs of the increasing number of tourists that have, all of a sudden, decided to visit the country.
With the growing enthusiasm of foreign tourists to visit Iran, travel agencies have encountered daunting challenges in lodging them or reserving hotel rooms for them.
To tackle this challenge, Iranian officials plan to convert historical houses into tourist lodgings and build hotels in joint ventures with foreign investors.
A large number of foreign investment delegations have visited Iran over the past few months for talks in this respect. Due to Spain’s considerable experience in the tourism sector, the officials of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization attach great importance to expanding cooperation with the country.
This is while, in light of Iran’s huge tourism potentials, Spain has decided to seize this opportunity and voiced willingness to participate in the construction of hotels in the Middle Eastern country.
A little while has elapsed since the visit to Iran by Spanish Minister of Industry, Energy, and Tourism José Manuel Soria López and significant steps have been taken by both sides to forge favorable ties in this respect. Spain has signed a contract with Iran to build a five-star hotel in Mazandaran Province by the end of 2017. This will be the first part of a project by Spain to construct a hotel chain in Iran.
During his visit, López voiced his country’s willingness to construct 300 hotels in Iran. Meliá Hotels InternationalGroup is the Spanish company responsible for building the hotels.
Commenting on the project in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Maria Zarraluqui, the global development managing director of Meliá Hotels International Group, said Iran is a very exciting country with huge tourism potentials and a large number of tourist attractions.
“This made us absolutely determined to initiate the project in the country. We believe that Iran’s tourism potentials as well as Iranian’s rich culture will bring a large number of tourists to the country in near future.”
She added given the removal of the sanctions, the ground is fully prepared for initiating the mutual cooperation.
Commenting on the number of Iranian tourists visiting Spain each year, Zarraluqui said, “I do not know the exact figure. All I know is that Iranians constitute a significant percentage of tourists to Spain.”
She noted that the Spanish people know a great deal about the Iranians and the country’s tourist attractions, adding perhaps, they constitute a significant number of tourists to Iran.
“Following the launching of the first phase of our chain hotels in Mazandaran Province, we plan to construct hotels in other Iranian provinces such as East Azarbaijan, Tehran, Gilan, Khorasan Razavi and Isfahan.”
Regional tourism hub
Speaking on the sidelines of the ceremony to sign the agreement between Iran and Spanish company for constructing the hotels, Carlos Aragon Gil de la Serna, the deputy head of the mission at the Spanish Embassy in Tehran, said Iran is capable of turning into a regional tourism hub in the near future.
“He added relations between Iran and Europe are at their peak. Following the July 14 nuclear accord between the country and P5+1, ties are strengthening.”
Iran is interested in competing with its international rivals in the field of tourism and constructing quality hotels across its provinces, Serna stressed, adding the country would soon turn into the region’s main trade and tourism destination.
“Our aim is to increase our trade volume with Iran in the coming years.”
According to the envoy, international investors are interested in business with Iran in various sectors including tourism.
Serna further described the construction of qualified hotels as an essential requirement for investment in tourism industry.
The envoy further said Iran’s ties with the EU have improved since President Hassan Rouhani assumed office in 2013.
Hotels for all social classes
In another exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Sirous Etemadi, a member of the Iranian Tour Operator Association, put the annual number of tourists visiting Iran at 4.5 million, adding, efforts are underway to increase the figure to more than 20 million by 2025.
He said due to the row between Turkey and Russia, there is growing probability that Iran would replace Turkey as a destination for Russian tourists.
Etemadi added, “Given its high tourism capacities, Iran will soon turn into a regional tourism hub. A tsunami of tourists is headed for Iran.”
He further underline that the country faces a serious challenge in providing accommodation for the growing number of tourists.
The head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization, Masoud Soltanifar, he said has predicted that Iran is required to increase the number of its five- and four-star hotels to 400 in the next 10 years.
“There are about 1,100 hotels across the country, of which only 130 are four- and five-star. Although we are required to build luxury hotels, we should not forget about other [low-income] classes of our tourists.”
He stressed that in addition to being a regional tourism hub, Iran is an important scientific center.
A large number of university students visit the country annually to carry out their research activities, Etemadi said, adding they need cheap but clean lodgings.
Tourism industry fetched Iran about at least $6.1 billion during the year to mid-March 2015.
Source: Iran Daily