Iran seeks 20 mln tourists, $30 billion revenue annually by 2025

Iran seeks 20 mln tourists, $30 billion revenue annually by 2025
Long seen as a destination strewn with shortcomings, Iran is making a fresh pitch for tourists, with the recent lifting of economic sanctions providing an opportunity to cash in, AFP reports.

The tourism industry has been overlooked by successive governments in Tehran but the deal Iran struck with world powers over its nuclear program last summer could change that.

Tourists, and the healthy revenues they could generate, are among the huge economic changes stemming from the nuclear deal.

Ski resorts, UNESCO-listed world heritage sites and deserts combine with cities steeped in Middle Eastern grandeur and tradition, according to AFP.

A tourism push was launched after President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, ending the hardline era of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which Iran’s international isolation deepened.

Entry procedures have been simplified, meaning visitors from only 11 countries are not eligible for a visa on arrival. The United States, Britain, Canada and France top the exclusion list but some people will not be put off by the restrictions.

For Rouhani, tourism offers a way to offset falling oil prices that have slashed government income. The goal is 20 million tourists annually by 2025 which would provide $30 billion a year, a fivefold increase in current revenues from foreign visitors.

There have been 4.16 million visitors in the first nine months of the Iranian year, which started in March 2015, up five percent from a year earlier, according to the tourism ministry.

Of the country’s 1,100 hotels, only 130 are four or five star — 400 more would be needed to accommodate 20 million tourists annually