Islamic restrictions or $30B: hard choice for Iran’s tourism industry

Islamic restrictions or $30B: hard choice for Iran’s tourism industry

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 22

By Khalid Kazimov - Trend:

Iran has earned at least $6.1 billion from tourism during the past year and Tehran is considering the development of its tourism industry.

According to Tehran's plan, the country needs to lure 20 million visitors a year to generate $30 billion in revenue.

During a recent tourism exhibition in Iranian city of Isfahan, Trend spoke to some of the people involved in tourism and hotel business, who said that the number of foreign tourists arriving in Iran is in surge.

In fact, such a surge in Iran's tourism sector is not surprising as the country has an exceptionally rich cultural heritage and beautiful nature. And given that Iran's national currency is weak against the US dollar, the westerners won't need to spend a fortune to enjoy their holidays in a Middle Eastern but relatively safe country.

Apparently with the plan to draw the attention of tourists, Tehran is going to compete with regional tourism spots, such as Turkey and Dubai, but the issue in question is that whether Tehran has a sufficient and efficient infrastructure for serving a huge number of tourists.

HOTELS

There are about 1,100 hotels throughout Iran, but only 29 of them are listed as five-star and 75 as four-star hotels, while the country plans to triple the number of hotels in the country before 2025. Meanwhile, experts speculate that by 2025, the number of the tourists arriving in Iran will increase from the current five million to 20 million.

Therefore, the number of hotels and their capacity for receiving such an enormous number of travellers still remain among challenges for Iranian officials, as well as international and domestic tour operators.

Given that there are only 96 hotels in Tehran, as compared to 627 in Dubai or 2,380 in London, it is obvious that there is need for construction of more hotels in Iran and putting investment in this area.

AVIATION & TRANSPORTATION

As for Iran's aviation, it should be noted that currently the country's aircraft fleet is old, but with a new contract, recently inked with the Airbus, and the removal of international sanctions, Tehran will gradually renew the fleet as of 2024.

And the officials say they consider purchasing more aircraft.

Meanwhile, Iran's airports organization is eyeing to compete with mega-hubs in Dubai and Istanbul.

The organization has announced projects to develop three international airports in Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad cities. The capacity of the main international airport in the capital city, Tehran, is projected to reach 45 million passengers annually, which currently stands at five million.

Comparing that with the capacity of 75 million passengers in Dubai airport, or Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, which served more than 38 million passengers in 2014, one easily understands the need for further investment in Iran's international airports.

Iran has got a proper public transportation system.

However, it still needs to be developed as the country has a high number of deaths caused by road accidents, according to the World Health Organization's road safety reports.

ISLAMIC RESTRICTIONS

The strict rules of Sharia, a legal framework which regulates and puts some restrictions in the public and some private aspects of life in legal systems based on Islam, would be considered as an obstacle to persuading foreigners to visit Iran.

For instance, the Sharia rules forbid drinking alcohol in the country and the women have to observe the Islamic dress code.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, alcohol consumption has been strictly forbidden in the country and women have been obliged to wear Islamic veil. The offenders may be persecuted and face harsh punishments.

Given the aforementioned issues and Tehran's goal to attract 20 million visitors a year to generate up to $30 billion in revenue, bringing in foreign investment is essential for Iran.

However for this, Iran has to think of reviewing strict Islamic rules at least for tourists, and decide whether it would waive those rules for bringing in more tourism money.

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