A senior Iranian official says millions of foreign tourists spent nearly eight billion dollars in the country last year.
Masoud Soltanifar, head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told reporters on Monday that some five million foreign tourists visited Iran last year, spending at least 7.5 billion dollars.
“Currently, the country’s income from tourism industry accounts for half a percent of the global revenue,” Soltanifar said, adding that the government seeks to increase the figure to two percent by 2025, IRNA reported.
The senior official, who is also a deputy to the Iranian president, noted that Iran ranks 47th on the list of countries with highest tourist number, saying that given its tourist destinations, the country needs to attract some 20 million foreign visitors by 2025.
A New York Times report last month said tour operators in America have been speaking of a surge in bookings by many Americans who, undeterred by a State Department warning about travel risks to Iran, are keen on visiting the country.
Iranian officials told the Associated Press last fall that the country’s tourism sector aims to attract $30 billion by 2025.
Iran hosts some of the world’s oldest cultural monuments, including 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and its varied terrain ranges from desert locales to ski resorts.
Iran tourism, however, reportedly suffers some deficiencies such as shortage of enough hotels and some financial restrictions for foreign money transfers.
Officials say hotel groups from Germany, Greece, South Korea and Singapore traveled to Iran last year for talks on hotel construction.
Europe’s largest hotel group Accor has already built two four-star hotels at Imam Khomeini International Airport outside the capital, Tehran.
Also, the UAE-based Rotana plans to open a five-star 600-room hotel in Tehran and another in the city of Mashhad, which attracts millions of pilgrims each year.