People, Travel

No Loans for Ilam Ecolodges

No Loans for Ilam EcolodgesNo Loans for Ilam Ecolodges

In response to recent criticisms leveled at Omid Entrepreneurship Fund for refusing to finance ecotourism projects in Ilam Province, officials of the fund declared that loans were refused because these projects did not comply with the defined standards.  The fund had been allocated low-interest bank loans to develop tourism in the province, which have not been given to applicants. Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has blamed the fund for the delay.

Jafar Sharafkhani, director of the fund, said in a statement that a large number of proposals submitted for implementing ecotourism projects are not compatible with the standards set for ecolodges, ISNA reported. Ecolodges are rural historical houses repurposed to serve as either cultural centers with craft workshops or accommodations for both Iranian and foreign tourists. They are designed to have the least possible impact on the surrounding natural environment.

"The schemes have been submitted to the fund without preliminary studies and do not meet the requirements of an ecolodge," Sharafkhani stressed, adding that the applicants sought the construction of a garden house rather than an ecolodge.

Most important of all, authorities at Omid Entrepreneurship Fund have now declared that due to the expiry of the agreement between Omid Fund and ICHHTO on June 28, they are no longer able to provide banking services to investors, unless the agreement is extended. In fact, tourism plans approved for Ilam were kept pending from February until the contract expired on June 28.  Some 25 ecotourism schemes in Ilam, including 15 ecolodge projects, have been submitted to receive loans worth 50 to 100 million rials ($1,300 to $2,500), nearly all of which are pending.


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