Next luxury travel hot spot: Iran?

Next luxury travel hot spot: Iran?

By Jeri Clausing

Now, Cuba. Next, Iran?

This month’s historic nuclear deal and the announcement of plans to begin lifting sanctions against Iran has hoteliers and tour operators looking to expand in what many Americans have previously considered taboo territory.

According to, AccorHotels is now looking to develop some budget brands. And given the thirst by adventurous luxury travelers for new experiences in far-flung locales, luxury hoteliers will also no doubt be looking to the country.

A recent report by TRI Consulting, “Awaiting the Gold Rush: Exploring the Opportunities in Tehran’s Hotel Market,” says that Tehran currently has just 96 hotels, compared with Dubai’s 657. And only 16 of the Tehran properties are classified as four- and five-star.

So the potential opening of the market presents “enormous opportunities for the city’s untapped hotel market,” the report says.

For travelers who don’t want to wait, a North Carolina company already offers luxury tours to this intriguing destination.

“Few Americans realize that there are no sanctions or restrictions on travel to Iran,” says Steve Kutay, CEO of Iran Luxury Travel. “I speak seven languages and have traveled to more than 80 countries, and of all of them, Iran held the most fascination for me and my wife Pat.

“The country’s rich history, architecture and culture; warm and welcoming people; and spectacular scenery are unmatched.”

Kutay says his company is the only North American tour operator that offers trips to Iran.

“Iran is not just our specialty; it’s all we do,” he said. “We’ve stayed at or inspected almost every hotel we offer, and know American travelers will find them as luxurious as we did.”

The company offers eight- and 16-day tours, which include 10 Unesco World Heritage sites, concierge service and English speaking guides. The packages start at just $2,495 per person.

Kutay says spring and fall are the most popular months to travel, although this company also offer ski packages to Dizin, which is just two hours from Tehran and has a season that runs from November to May.