Role of Diplomatic Missions Highlighted

Role of Diplomatic Missions HighlightedRole of Diplomatic Missions Highlighted

In addition to representing Iran’s interests in host countries, Iran’s diplomatic missions should double their efforts to promote Iran as a holiday destination and help attract foreign investors.

Addressing a meeting in Tehran of heads of diplomatic missions on Sunday, Masoud Soltanifar, head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, urged the them to do their share in advancing Iran’s tourism industry and briefed them on the sector’s developments.

“We’ve injected $8.8 billion into 900 tourism projects, which are 45% complete,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

Soltanifar, who doubles as vice president, said his organization has prepared an investment package of 1,500 projects to attract foreign investors. It is estimated that the whole package will cost around $30 billion.

Previously, he was quoted by the domestic and foreign media as saying that the package includes 1,300 projects.

Details of the package are available in Persian and English and the Arabic version will be available next week.

Years of crippling economic sanctions, which isolated Iran from the comity of nations, left the tourism infrastructure in dire need of investments and much-needed modernization, namely in key infrastructure.

 Investment Areas

Among the infrastructure woes that require immediate attention are run-down airports and insufficient lodging.

Several airports, including the Imam Khomeini International Airport, are being renovated and expanded by the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, while the International Air Transport Association has talked about investing in the aviation industry, particularly to help renovate airports and renovate the aging national fleet.

Iran’s main tourism goal, which is to attract 20 million tourists by 2025, means the country needs to renovate old and dilapidated hotels and build hundreds of new ones. Iran currently has 1,100 hotels and guest houses, 130 of them 4 and 5 star hotels.

International hotel groups, including the UAE-based Jumeirah Group and Spain’s Melia Hotels, have expressed interest in entering the Iranian market, while UAE’s Rotana is expected to open four hotels in Tehran and Mashhad by 2018.

In September, French group AccorHotels became the first international hotel group to operate in Iran when it announced the opening of an Ibis hotel and a Novotel branch near the main airport in south Tehran. “We need to increase our four- and five-star hotels from 130 to 400 in 10 years. We are providing low-interest loans from the National Development Fund of Iran to private investors to build hotels,” Soltanifar said.

Pointing to Accor’s move to open two hotels in Iran, the vice president said Iran’s laws now support and encourage foreign investment.

Soltanifar said Iran’s 15-day visa-on-arrival program has been extended to 30 days, and barring 10 countries, citizens of every country get visa in the airport.

The 10 countries include Colombia, Somalia, Britain, Canada, USA, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2015, published last week during the WTM London exhibition (November 2-5), Iran has the potential to be a key tourism player, thanks to its 19 world heritage sites and a plethora of attractions, including ski resorts

Iran sent its biggest delegation yet to the event to drum up business and investment, which may have worked because 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 and after the sanctions are eased.

The western media’s years of negativity, which fanned the flames of Iranophobia, took a toll on the nation’s global image.

The number of foreigners visiting Iran has grown 12% in each of the past two years. In 2014, Iran hosted over five million tourists, bringing in some $7.5 billion in revenue.

Even though political analysts commend Iran’s reemergence on the global stage – orchestrated by President Hassan Rouhani’s open diplomacy since 2013 – Iran still has a long way to go to completely undo the damage done to its image. To that end, Iranian diplomatic missions will and should have a big a role to play.