Iran Anticipates Tourist Influx

Iran Anticipates Tourist InfluxIran Anticipates Tourist Influx

As relations between Iran and the West improve, tourists might get the reassurance they have been looking for to travel to one of the world’s ancient countries.

In an interview with AP, Iran’s Vice President for Tourism Masoud Soltanifar said, “We are anticipating a tsunami of tourists after sanctions are lifted.”

The interview, published online on Sunday—the same day that US President Barack Obama ordered his subordinates to begin the long process of lifting crippling economic sanctions on Iran—sparked the western media to talk up Iranian tourism.

In an exclusive report, Australian news website pointed to Iran’s nearly four-decade isolation from the international tourism scene, but noted: “From beaches to ski resorts, beautiful Islamic architecture, incredible food and ancient archaeological sites, [Iran]’s attractions were never in doubt.”

The report mentions France and the UK’s move to relax travel advice for their citizens to Iran and contrasts it to the Australian government’s reservation to follow suit.

The UK-based Daily Mail ran a story—not for the first time—on Iran’s myriads of natural, historical and cultural attractions, with a brief section dedicated to Iranians’ love of food.

“Persians are passionate about food and visitors will find dishes with a strong emphasis on rice, eggplant, grilled meats, pomegranate, walnuts, lime, prunes, cinnamon and saffron,” it said.

“Persian food is unlike anything you have ever tasted.”

  Accommodation and Transportation

Similar to past reports by French and British newspapers on Iranian tourism, the most recent reports point to Iran’s lack of accommodation and its plans to attract foreign investment.

The country aims to host 20 million tourists a year by 2025, with expectations of growing the tourist industry to $30 billion.

“Currently, Iran lacks sufficient accommodation and transportation for that number of tourists. Iran has 1,100 hotels and guest houses, 130 of them 4- and 5-star hotels,” the AP report said.

Iranian tourism officials are expected to outline the country’s new tourism strategy in the coming days, which includes revealing a package detailing investment in 1,300 projects to lure foreign investors and revitalize the badly hit tourism sector.

“American tourists and investors are welcome,” said Soltanifar. “There is no obstacle or restrictions for them to visit Iran or invest in the country.”

Iran’s aging air fleet was also noted in the AP interview. The country needs more than 400 new passenger planes to compensate for shortages due to sanctions over the past three decades. Of its 250 passenger planes, 100 are currently grounded because of lack of spare parts. The remaining 150 aging aircraft need to be renovated.

“We need to renovate our air transportation system and buy new planes after sanctions are lifted. But this will be time-consuming,” Soltanifar, who is also the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, was quoted as saying.

Iran is home to 19 UNESCO-registered sites—more than any other Middle Eastern country—many of which remain largely unseen by western visitors.