Iran awaits lift of sanctions to see boom in tourism
Tehran, Iran, April 22
By Temkin Jafarov, Mehdi Sepahvand - Trend:
Iranian Vice President and Head of the Cultural Heritage, Handcraft, and Tourism Organization Masoud Soltanifar said that the country's tourism industry has suffered the effects of international sanctions in the past 15 years.
"We hope that as sanctions are lifted, we will see a big jump in the field of tourism," he stated in a conference with foreign press in Tehran on April 22.
He said that the sanctions have hit tourism's private foreign investment the worst.
It has hit the aviation since airplane parts cannot be acquired, also making direct flights from Tehran to Europe impossible, he added.
Soltanifar said that despite all these, the country's tourism is now past the downturn period.
The official pointed out that Iran enjoys great tourism resources such as historical attractions, natural tourist sites, and religious tourism hubs.
According to him, the world tourism made $1.5 trillion in 2014, of which Iran's share was only about 0.5 percent.
He noted that in the past years, many foreign investors have expressed willingness to find their way to Iran. "I have met 9 groups of these investors and it has been agreed that once sanctions are removed, they would start investment in this section," he said.
He pointed out that even under current situations, some Arab countries have invested in the Iranian tourism, especially in the religious city of Mashhad.
We support all investors and offer the necessary assurances and also provide them with the related banking resources, he guaranteed.
While 50 percent of tourists heading Iran do so on religious grounds, tourists from Europe, Canada, and Australia mostly visit [natural sites] in the north and the deserts in the south, he noted.
In terms of tourism potentials, Iran ranks 15th in the world, but based on the number of tourists it receives, it ranks 45th to 48th.
He said Iran plans to boost the number of visiting tourists to 20 million people in 20 years, with an income of over $30 billion.
Soltanifar added that currently 950 tourism-related projects are underway in the country.
He said that last Iranian year (which ended March 20), Iran received 96 percent more tourists than the preceding year.
He explained as examples that in the said period the number of tourists for countries increased as follows: from Germany it jumpted from 2200 to 3300 people, from the US it jumped from 1900 to 3400 people, from Belgium it jumped from 1770 to 3400 people, and from Sweden it jumped from 2000 to 4200 people.
In another part of his speech, Soltanifar commented on the issue of direct Iran-US flights and said that the flights will be launched if political situations are favorable.
He also said that Iran has taken measures to facilitate issuing tourists visas, currently cooperating with 190 countries whereby the tourists can get visas at airports in Tehran.
He also said Iran is trying to launch electronic visas in one year as another move to help tourism.