Iran’s investment laws are fine, but the emerging tourism industry has failed to attract potential investors, deputy for investment and planning at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said.
Speaking to the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad, Saeed Shirkavand added that many in Iran do not see tourism as an industry capable of challenging other industries.
In June, Shirkavand told a conference attended by representative of tourism organizations and hoteliers that “an oil-dependent economy prevents the development of other industries”. He singled out overreliance on oil revenues and weak planning as major obstacles to the growth of tourism.
Stressing that investment is a long process that begins by attracting investors and ends with the completion of tourism projects, Shirkavand said it would be naïve to think investors will flock to Iran immediately after the nuclear accord signed in Vienna on July 14 goes into effect.
“Right now, potential investors are assessing investment opportunities and conducting preliminary studies on Iran’s tourism market,” he said.
“Naturally, many things need to go right before investors decide to claim a stake in the market and that takes time.”
Tourism Projects Package
Foreign and domestic investors have wasted little time to show interest in the Iranian travel market since the nuclear agreement was announced, prompting ICHHTO to put together a package containing detailed information about 1,020 projects ready for investment.
“The package discloses information about construction of three- to five-star hotel, holiday resorts, roadside inns and recreational facilities, as well as projects aimed at restoring historical and cultural structures,” he said.
The official said assuring investors that their investments will yield profit is the most important measure that must be taken right now, adding that investors look to reduce risks as much as possible.
“Reassuring [investors] doesn’t only depend on economic factors; social factors, such as people’s beliefs and attitudes, also play a part,” he said.
Following the nuclear deal, ambassadors of western countries in Tehran began making diplomatic trips to several Iranian cities, which Shirkavand believes is a sign that the race to enter the Iranian market is heating up.
He said ICHHTO has been contacted by investors from South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, China, Italy, France and the UAE over the past year.
“Various delegations from different countries will travel to Iran to assess the situation and learn more about investment laws and whether they facilitate investment,” he said.
Paying the Price of Past Mistakes
Shirkavand said shortcomings of the industry are the results of mistakes made by the previous governments.
“Attention was not given to the sector, which set us back,” he said. “The previous two administrations didn’t care much about establishing diplomatic ties and the western media took the opportunity to smear Iran.”
Nevertheless, he believes the current administration’s foreign policy has helped significantly to disperse the cloud of mistrust hanging over Iran, as evidenced by a noticeable increase in the number of foreign tourists over the past two years.
“We are on the verge of a historic [economic] revolution and the tourism industry could very well benefit from it, as long as all involved parties cooperate,” he said.
Shirkavand’s words echo those uttered by ICHHTO chief, Masoud Soltanifar, who said last month that no other industry in Iran will see a greater boost as a result of the nuclear deal than tourism.