People, Travel

Upsurge in Hotel Projects

Upsurge in Hotel ProjectsUpsurge in Hotel Projects

With 1,750 hotel projects currently underway, Iran is seeing an unprecedented upsurge in hotel development, claimed a top official at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization.

“We’ve built 35 four- and five-star hotels in the past three years, and 170 more are scheduled for completion in the next five years; that’s more than 200 quality hotels by 2021,” said Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

This is in addition to some 820 midscale hotels under construction throughout the country, Mehr News Agency quoted the official as saying.

“German and Turkish groups will start the construction of 20 to 25 hotels in the country in the near future,” he added.

From 1921—when Iran’s first international hotel Qazvin Grand Hotel was built—to 2013, only 125 high quality hotels were built in the country.

The increase in hotel projects under the current administration, which came to power in 2013, is widely attributed to the lifting of crippling economic sanctions against Iran in January following Tehran’s compliance with its obligations as outlined in the July 2015 nuclear deal with the six world powers.

  Essential to Growth

Lack of quality hotels has long been singled out as the main problem preventing Iran from developing its tourism industry. Four- and five-star hotels at popular destinations such as Isfahan and Mashhad are usually fully booked in the peak season.

According to Ebrahim Pourfaraj, the head of the Iranian Tour Operators’ Society, top quality lodging facilities are already booked for the peak travel season in 2017.

“We’re not yet ready to host the influx of foreign tourists due to a lack of good hotels,” he said.

Iran, which drew just over five million tourists last year, is targeting 20 million annual tourists by 2025.

Despite the progress made in the sector under President Hassan Rouhani’s government, the pace of development is slow.

“We’re not going to be ready for next year,” Pourfaraj said.

To make matters worse, the sheer volume of international conferences and symposiums in the peak season means people from different parts of the globe travel to Iran to attend the events, meaning hotel rooms are booked months in advance which, given Iran’s lack of lodging facilities, means tourists cannot find vacant rooms even in motels and guesthouses.

Tourism professionals have called on officials and organizers to spread out international events across the year instead of holding them during the high season, but to no avail.

In the peak season, hotels in cities like Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, which are among the main destinations for foreign tourists, have no space to offer.