Iran could benefit from an influx of international visitors, including Brits, as a result of recent political changes in the country, typified by the nuclear agreement signed in Vienna earlier this summer.
The World Travel Market 2015 Industry Report, released today (Monday 2 November) at World Travel Market London asked UK holidaymakers about Iran’s potential as a tourism destination. One-in-six (16%) of UK holidaymakers said they are interested in visiting the country.
Furthermore, 30% of the global travel industry (WTM exhibitors and members of the WTM Buyers’ Club) which has interests in the inbound or outbound Iranian tourism sector said that they expected to do more business over the next twelve months.
Masoud Soltanifar, director of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO), told state TV that the country would like to welcome 20 million international visitors by 2025.
The catalyst for the optimism is the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” – a deal signed between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US – in which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
Almost immediately, the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office dropped its advisory against all but essential travel to Iran, saying that that apart from its borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, “the risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani’s government.”
Diplomatic relations between the UK have also improved, with the Iranian embassy in London and the British embassy in Tehran re-opening in August.
In terms of tourism, French hotel chain Accor is opening two airport hotels and has ambitious plans to open more in the future, while Dubai-based Rotana Hotels has also committed to open at least four hotels.
There is even an “Airbnb-style” business, OrientStay, which has 200 flats available for tourists. Iranian authorities have given the service the regulatory all-clear.
Airlines are also interested in serving the country – Emirates for example has added a service from its Dubai hub to Masshad, Iran’s second city. It already flies to Tehran.
As the leading global event for the travel industry, World Travel Market London has had a relationship with Iran’s tourism industry, even when the country was off-limits as a mainstream tourism destination. This year the country’s presence at WTM London is its strongest ever, with the country and its sharers taking a 71.5 square meter stand, nearly six times as big as its 2014 commitment.
WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press said: “The emergence of Iran as a potential tourism destination is an exciting prospect.
“We are pleased that more and more exhibitors from the country are choosing WTM to showcase the attractions of Iran to our global audience of buyers and industry professionals.”
The World Travel Market 2015 Industry Report polled 2,000 senior industry executives and more than 1,000 UK holidaymakers – all of whom had a minimum of a seven day holiday in 2015.