Iran’s tourism sector growing, but is it enough?

TEHRAN, Iran — Endowed with ancient history and rich cultural treasures, Iran is among the top 20 countries in terms of the highest number of tourism attractions. From the world-renowned 2,500-year-old ruins of Persepolis to the archaeological mounds in Susa and Meymand villages, Iran is home to 19 UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites; the latter two were added to this list a year ago.

Contrary to many of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf region, Iran enjoys a highly diverse culture as it is home to many different ethnic and religious groups. It is also among the countries that enjoy four genuine seasons, giving every visitor the chance to choose from a wide range of activities and tastes.

Iran is considered to be generally safe to visit, and another major advantage for the nation’s tourism industry is that the World Economic Forum found the country to be the world’s cheapest tourism destination in 2015.

However, ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, pilgrims en route to holy Shia sites have constituted the lion’s share of foreign tourists. The war with Iraq in the 1980s followed by years of political isolation over its nuclear program also contributed to major underinvestment in Iran’s tourism sector.
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