Iranian families ride pedal boats in the Chitgar lake in western Tehran.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE)
With the new Iranian nuclear deal comes new horizons. Several large hotel companies, including the Abu Dhabi-based Rotana, confirmed that they are planning on opening new hotels in Iran in hopes of increased tourism due to the lifting of sanctions, The Telegraph reported.
Iran, which has had financial and banking sanctions imposed on it since the Iranian revolution in 1979, has not been a popular tourist destination despite its 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and unique cultural landscape. Planning a trip to Iran currently requires booking through a third party, and visas, which are not granted to lone travelers, are difficult to obtain.
“Our current process for reservations is only carried out via exchange of emails with our guests, and our rooms are booked without any guarantee. It is of course not a convenient situation for tourists and for us, as people working in the tourism field,” said Morteza Bekhradi, the owner of Bekhradi’s Historical House boutique hotel in Isfahan.
The Iranian nuclear deal, which was signed in Vienna last week, would eventually see the lifting of sanctions which have seriously hurt the country's economy and global image. The lifting of these sanctions would potentially allow international tour companies to expand their reach and offer easier access to Iran.
Foreign investors seem optimistic about this possible expansion. Foreign hotel groups from Germany, Greece, South Korea and Singapore had visited Iran to “study the Iranian tourism market and its growing attractions,” according to Iranian network Press TV.
Masoud Soltanifar, director of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), said that 11 hotels were built across the country last year, and that more are likely to be built. Soltanifar hopes that Iran will attract 20 million visitors a year by 2025, which could bring $30 billion in revenues to the country. The current number of foreign visitors to Iran are roughly around four million per year, and the tourism industry remains a largely underdeveloped market.
“With the lifting of sanctions, we are sure that all developers and operators will be racing to secure their position in one of the world’s largest untapped markets,” said CEO of the Rotana hotel group Omer Kaddouri. Rotana is set to open four hotels in Iran – two in Mashhad and two in Tehran – which are slated to open by 2018.