People, Travel

Ceding Historical Buildings to Foreigners Faces Challenges

Ceding Historical Buildings to Foreigners Faces ChallengesCeding Historical Buildings to Foreigners Faces Challenges

The plan to cede 20 historical sites to a Chinese company for restoration and operation has caused concern among cultural heritage activists.

The Revitalization and Utilization Fund for Historical Sites announced earlier this month that the China-based Eurasian Holding Company will be entrusted with the temporary management, restoration and operation of 20 Iranian historical sites ceded to them without a tender.

Some activists have criticized the move on the grounds that the investors are not specialized in restoration of cultural heritage, while also voicing skepticism over the fund's decision to forego auctioning the sites off.

In an interview with the Persian daily Etemad, Mohammad Reza Pouyandeh, director of the fund, tried to clear the air.

"China is a top ranking country in terms of outbound tourism and the number of Chinese travelers to Iran has increased considerably over the years," he said, implying that the plan can help draw more tourists from the world's second largest economy.

He also highlighted the fact the that the plan is in line with the Silk Road Program established by the UN World Tourism Organization to develop tourism along the ancient road.

Defending the decision to cede the buildings to a foreign company with apparently no experience in restoring historical buildings, Pouyandeh said, "The Eurasian Holding Company is a world-class investment firm with numerous projects across the globe."

The official further said the fund will publish the company's portfolio that includes a variety of successful endeavors across the world.

  Reaping the Benefits

Pouyandeh also stressed that the restoration schemes and professional consultation will be provided by Iranian contractors and the Chinese will only invest and carry on the business.

"It does not matter what investor from which country is undertaking the plan; what matters is the benefits that Iran can gain from the project," he said, adding that the restoration of caravanserais along the Silk Road will be the biggest reward for Iran as it can help attract more tourists to the country.

Based on the contract signed between the fund and the Chinese firm, the 20 historical sites will be determined after thorough studies on their restoration costs and tourism potential.

"The transfer will be done after the two parties reach an agreement on the restoration and renting costs," he said.

Asked why the sites are set to be ceded without a tender, Pouyandeh said the move is allowed by the fund's statute and has been practiced before, the most recent example being the ceding of 28 historical houses to Shiraz Municipality earlier this year.

"Domestic businesses will also be offered the right without a tender, if they request to invest in 20 historical places," he said.


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