Melia to Open Luxury Hotel in Mazandaran

Melia to Open Luxury Hotel in Mazandaran  Melia to Open Luxury Hotel in Mazandaran

Iran is getting its first foreign-branded seaside hotel in nearly 40 years, complete with swimming pools, cafés and a spa.

Melia Hotels International SA plans to open the five-star property in a 130-meter tower in Mazandaran Province on the Caspian Sea as early as next year, the Spanish hotel operator said in a statement on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after a slew of trade sanctions on the Tehran were lifted in January.

The Gran Melia Ghoo hotel will form part of a new district being built in the resort of Salman Shahr (formerly Motel Qu) in Abbasabad County in Mazandaran Province.

“We firmly believe in Iran’s tourism potential,” Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Escarrer said in a statement. “We have always been pioneers in the development of new markets,” Bloomberg reported.

The hotel will provide “all of the luxury services and facilities expected of a five-star hotel,” with seven restaurants and bars, over 1,300 m² of meeting and banquet facilities, two swimming pools, a spa, and diverse leisure and shopping facilities.

Iran’s first foreign-branded hotel in decades arrived in October, when French operator Accor SA opened a Novotel and an Ibis near Imam Khomeini International Airport, 30 kilometers south of the capital.

Hoteliers including Dubai-based Jumeirah and Abu Dhabi-based Rotana want to cash in on growing tourism in one of the Middle East’s oldest civilizations, with its ancient ruins of Persepolis, pristine Persian Gulf beaches and snow-capped skiing slopes.

  Luxury Resort

The hotel will compete with a property being built by Rotana to become the first luxury hotel operated by an overseas company in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Prior to the revolution, famed foreign brands including Hyatt, Sheraton and Hilton operated in Iran.

The resort will also feature two residential towers, a sports center, parking and a retail mall – which is already open to the public – all within an area of 180,000m², the statement read.

Iran has about 1,100 hotels, but only 130 of them are four and five star establishments which is an insignificant number for a country looking to attract 20 million tourists a year by 2025. Tourism officials insist that there are plans to increase the number of quality hotels to 400 in the next decade.

Lodging revenue is set to increase about 25% in the next five years, Euromonitor predicts, as the number of visitors is forecast to grow by a similar percentage to 6.3 million.

 Expecting a Major Shift

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Nikola Kosutic, Euromonitor’s head of Middle East research. “The quality of accommodation is not according to western standards, and we expect a great shift on that front, mostly through launches of international hotel chains.”

Tehran and the religious pilgrimage site of Mashhad will probably draw most of the investment, with the ancient cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd and Tabriz also considered attractive tourist destinations, according to Euromonitor.

Still, some of the biggest hotel companies are holding back. UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands, currently has no plans to expand to Iran, a spokesman said. US-based Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., is also holding off, despite seeing “significant potential for hospitality growth,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

While the UN, US and European nations lifted sanctions connected to Iran’s nuclear program in January, most American firms are still prohibited from exploring the Iranian market due to other sanctions imposed by Washington on Tehran.

For Melia, based in Palma de Mallorca, the lifting of the sanctions means it can enter before US competitors do.

“Our Mediterranean roots make it easier for us to connect with the Middle East hospitality concept and philosophy,” Escarrer said in the statement.