WTM Qualifies Iran as Emerging Destination

WTM Qualifies Iran as Emerging DestinationWTM Qualifies Iran as Emerging Destination

Diplomatic relations between Iran and the West have thawed and the historic nuclear deal signed in July  — according to which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions — created a scramble to open the country to foreign visitors, says the WTM Global Trends Report 2015.

Released on Monday at the World Travel Market London, the report predicts the Middle Eastern country has the potential to be a key tourism player, thanks to its unique culture and heritage, a statement on the WTM website read.

Iran looks set to exploit its ancient Persian history, including 19 World Heritage Sites — more than any other country in the region —and more unlikely tourism attractions such as 19 ski resorts and opportunities for mountain climbing and bird-watching.

The WTM Global Trends Report 2015, in association with Euromonitor International, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary at WTM London 2015, reveals the Iranian government has already taken steps to boost tourism by enabling many nationalities, such as French, German and Russian, to obtain a visa upon arrival.

And the country is currently exhibiting at World Travel Market London 2015, hosting a delegation of six tour companies — the largest ever Iranian delegation at WTM — eager to do business with tour operators and travel agents from across the globe.

 Untapped Market

The United Arab Emirates-based Rotana Hotel Group has a brand aimed at Muslim travelers – Rayhaan Hotel and Resorts – and the company is preparing for four properties to open in Tehran and Mashhad by 2018.

“With the lifting of sanctions, we are sure that all developers and operators will be racing to secure their position in one of the world’s largest untapped markets,” said Omer Kaddouri, Rotana’s president and chief executive.

However, the report highlights hurdles to tourism developments, saying: “The years of international isolation have left the tourism infrastructure in need of major investment.

“Banking processes are a key area of reform as online or credit card payments are virtually impossible inside Iran.”

  Pent-Up Demand

Simon Press, senior director of WTM London, said: “Since the international deal to lift sanctions was sealed in the summer, there have been many overseas firms looking to do business in Iran – and tourism companies are leading the way.

“A major influx of overseas visitors is expected, and, as the country recovers from its international exile, Iranians will see economic benefits, which will translate into increased domestic travel.”

Euromonitor International, Head of Travel, Caroline Bremner said: “Tourists on religious, historical or nature trips accounted for an estimated 90% of the annual five million international arrivals to the country in 2014.

“There is certainly pent-up demand to visit Iran, and it is centrally located with good air links to Africa, Europe and Asia – so we expect those tourist numbers to boom.”

A survey of 2,050 WTM visitors, including executives from travel firms and tourism organizations, found that a third expect to do more business in Iran next year, Travel Mole reported.

However, with only 16% of those surveyed expressing interest in visiting Iran, it is evident that the cloud of mistrust due to years of smear campaigns orchestrated by the western media is still hanging over Iran.

Last month UK tour operator Cox and Kings announced it will start selling holidays to Iran in 2016. Relations between Iran and the UK began to improve following the signing of the nuclear accord between Tehran and the six world powers.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has eased its advice against travelling to the country, saying the risk faced by British nationals has changed in some regions.

London reopened its embassy in Tehran in August, nearly four years after it was closed.