Attracting Tourism Investment Essential

Attracting Tourism Investment EssentialAttracting Tourism Investment Essential

The highly-anticipated lifting of western sanctions imposed on Iran will open up the country’s emerging tourism market to foreign investors. However, a tourism expert emphasizes the importance of attracting the right investors.

Speaking to ISNA, Ali Asghar Tavakkoli, a member of the Iranian Tour Operators’ Association, said in view of the surrounding volatile Middle East, Iran is considered a paradise for setting up hotel chains.

“Iran’s untapped potential is a great opportunity for international companies to expand their business and we have to highlight Iran’s high level of security compared to other regional countries,” he said.

Tavakkoli said it is essential to draw the attention of credible foreign investors to Iran’s stability to reassure them of the profitability of their tourism ventures.

“Iranian investors residing abroad should also be invited to fund projects in their homeland,” he added.

The official suggested that spending a portion of Iran’s frozen assets—restored following the historic nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers—on improving the country’s underdeveloped tourism infrastructure, particularly construction of new hotels.

Iran stands to gain $100 billion from oil sales and assets currently frozen around the world.

Tavakkoli believes constructing hotels is worth the cost, as they pay for themselves.

“Those who invest in hotel projects can receive a tenfold return on their investment,” he said.

He considered lack of infrastructure as a major obstacle in the country’s tourism industry and said exhibitions and seminars are usually held in off-peak traveling season, but the reverse is true for Iran.

“In Iran, most conferences, seminars and exhibitions are scheduled in peak seasons, especially in metropolitan cities like Isfahan where aging infrastructure is the main issue,” He said.

Tavakkoli called on officials to “start giving the industry the attention it deserves and learn from other countries’ success stories to develop Iranian tourism.”

There are 50 hotel construction projects currently underway in Tehran, while the president of Tehran Hotels Association, Ali Farrokhmehr, believes another 50 hotels should be built in the Iranian capital.

If Tehran, a city hardly known for its tourism potential, lacks 100 hotels, one can realize the state of hospitality industry in tourist hubs like Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz and Mashhad.

The lack of lodging facilities has long been touted as a major factor hampering Iran’s efforts to become a top tourist destination, and those involved in the industry have consistently called for easing regulations to attract foreign investors.

The Financial Times earlier this month reported that major international hoteliers are closely monitoring Iran and waiting for the right opportunity to enter the primed Iranian market. However, ICHHTO and other related bodies should remove bureaucratic hurdles in the way of granting permits to private domestic and foreign investors.