Iran set to build 125 luxury hotels as it plans to be a must-see destination
Daily Mail, 23 March 2016
Backing up its aim to be one of the must-visit destinations for 2016, Iran is set to construct 125 luxury hotels.
With the government's tourism arm aiming to increase visitors to the Middle Eastern country to 20 million by 2025, a 20-fold increase, hopes are that it can contribute £20billion to the economy.
Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, confirmed that many of the hotels are near to completion, and the numbers built in the last year are more than the total produced in the last century.
Accor, which is Europe's largest hotel group, has already constructed two four-star hotels at Imam Khomeini International Airport outside the Iranian capital.
And Rotana are set to open four hotels in the next two years, two in the city of Mashhad set to be completed by the end of 2017, and two in Tehran due to open in 2018.
Omer Kaddouri, CEO and President at Rotana told MailOnline Travel: 'Rotana was the first hotel management company to announce its expansion plans in the Iranian market, after signing the management agreement in March 2013 for four properties currently under development, all of which will be opened under the company's alcohol-free brand "Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts" by Rotana.
'The first two hotels are set to open in the city of Mashhad – a 362 room hotel in 2017 followed by a 275 room hotel in 2018.
'In Tehran, Rotana will launch two further Rayhaan properties by 2018 – a five-star hotel will house 194 rooms and a four-star hotel will include 210 rooms.
'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.'
Soltanifar was speaking at the official opening of Iran's biggest five-star hotel, the Espinas Palace hotel, Tehran.
It has been constructed on a 15,000 sq meter site and sports restaurants and cafes, conference halls, and a 2,500 seat concert hall.
With improved relations, Iran's beaches, breathtaking Islamic architecture and incredible food could see the country soar to the top of the 'must-visit' destinations of 2016.
Soltanifar said President Hassan Rouhani's moderate policies and the easing of visa rules are opening the door for the return of foreign tourists to Iran.
Melia Hotels and Jumeirah Hotel Group are also considering expansion into Iran.
Speaking to MailOnline Travel, David McGuinness, co-founder of specialist tour operator Travel The Unknown believes now could be perfect time to visit Iran.
He said: 'The nuclear deal opens up new prospects for Iran as a tourist destination.
'People sometimes forget that Iran was one of the oldest tourist destinations, attracting people to its ancient sites before tourism as a concept had really begun to take hold.
'Iran has a wealth of attractions - ancient cities like Persepolis and Pasargadae built by famous leaders like Cyrus the Great, and Darius, stunning Islamic art and architecture, reaching its zenith in Esfahan.
'It's a supremely friendly and welcoming country, despite what our preconceptions may lead us to believe. Hospitality is in their blood.
A country rich in historical and cultural treasures, Iran will unveil an investment package of 1,300 projects in the coming days to attract foreign investment and boost the badly-hit tourism industry.
Iran is home to 19 UNESCO-registered sites, including the ancient city of Bisotun.
Even before sanctions are lifted, the number of foreigners visiting Iran has grown 12 per cent in each of the past two years.
In 2014, Iran hosted over five million tourists, bringing in some $7.5 billion (£4.8 billion) in revenue.
About half were Shiite Muslims, the same religious denomination as most Iranians, and the other half were tourists from Europe, North America and east Asia.
'In the post-sanctions era, tourism is an industry that will get a boost more than any other sector,' Soltanifar told the AP.
'Tourism is certainly the driving engine to get Iran's economy out of recession. Iran's tourism sector is a flourishing market for investors. We are anticipating a tsunami of tourists after sanctions are lifted.'
The reopening of the UK embassy in Iran after four years has been a step in the right direction for travelers’ peace of mind. Many travelers have discovered its rich history, magnificent architecture and enthralling culture - and its amazing hospitality.