Ilam Ecotourism Plans Still Waiting for Loans

Omid Entrepreneurship Fund has refused to provide loans to investors in rural tourism projects that have been waitlisted since February on the ground that its contract with ICHHTO has expired
Rural tourism schemes in many provinces face  financial issues.  Rural tourism schemes in many provinces face  financial issues.

Omid Entrepreneurship Fund has been blamed for the delay in extending the promised low-interest loans for ecotourism projects in Ilam Province.

The fund had secured low-interest bank loans to develop tourism infrastructures as part of the provincial ecotourism plans. However, officials claim that due to the expiration of the agreement between Omid Fund and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, they are no longer able to provide banking services to investors.

Speaking to ISNA, Leili Ghafourian, ecotourism and rural affairs expert at Ilam’s ICHHTO office, said tourism plans approved for Ilam have been waitlisted to receive loans with 3-8% interest rates since February when the agreement was signed, but none has received the financial facility.

“This is while the contract expired on June 28,” she said.

Based on the plans, rural historical houses will be repurposed to serve as either cultural centers with craft workshops or accommodations for both Iranian and foreign tourists. The plan will benefit the owners of properties and help create jobs for locals.

“Although some of the projects have progressed by 40-80%, officials refuse to fulfill their commitment,” Ghafourian said.

Reportedly, 25 ecotourism schemes in Ilam, including 15 ecolodge projects, have been submitted to receive loans worth 50 to 100 million rials ($1,300 to %2,500), nearly all of which are still pending.

Currently, only two ecolodges in Gavmishan and Abdanan villages, which had applied for the loans earlier in 2015, have received the loans and become operational. The other 13 are scheduled to be completed until the end of the current Iranian year (20 March 2018), once the promised funds are allocated.

According to the official, except for Ilam, schemes presented for other provinces have also not received the committed facilities.

According to Ghafourian, cultural heritage officials were expected to extend the contract with Omid Fund to tackle the problem. but this has not happened so far.  

Out of the 64,000 villages in the country, 33,000 have been deserted and 25,000 villages are each inhabited by less than 20 households. Officials hope to stop and possibly reverse rural-urban migration by developing rural tourism and creating jobs.

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