Iran: History, Culture, Civilisation and Natural Attractions

Iran opens its doors to the world… and works towards strong relations with France in the tourism sector

With inbound tourism growing at an estimated annual rate of around 5% and tourism revenue in 2015 of US$9bn, the country’s government has launched an active plan to encourage growth in the industry, set to boost revenue to an annual rate of US$30bn by 2025, and part of this will come from an active plan to improve relations with France. IFTM Daily was honoured to speak with Iranian Vice-President and head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation, Masoud Soltanifar, whom we asked to tell us more about the plan.

During the past year, a high-level Iranian delegation led by our President visited France. During this travel, cooperation documents in different fields were signed between the two countries. One of these documents is related to cooperation in the tourism. This document, which focuses on five principles, is the first independent tourism document in the history of our two countries.

Could you please tell us more about the principles of the agreement?

The educational cooperation and taking the advantages of the experience of the French side in tourism to enhance the level of services and tourism facilities in Iran is the first point of this agreement. Providing investment opportunities for French private sectors in Iran is the second axis of this agreement. Some months ago and during the travel of French delegation to Iran for initial evaluation, they found this market quite attractive. However, sanctions had not been lifted on that occasion and thus they declared that when the sanctions end, they are ready to invest in different sections of tourism in Iran. At the present time, all the circumstances have been prepared and it is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the investment of French private sectors in developing facilities and especially hotels in Iran. Last year, one of the prominent French holding companies (AccorHotels) took over the management of two Iranian airport hotels and is ready to take more hotels.

The third point of this agreement is planning for increasing the number of tourists between our two countries. In 2013, Iran hosted 8,000 French tourists approximately. This number increased to 13,000 in 2014 and I think it was nearly 18,000 at the end of 2015. The annual growth rate is 50% to 60%, but since the absolute value is somewhat low, it does not seem significant. We have special plan to host 200,000 French tourists annually and in order to achieve this goal, there should be significant growth in number of tourists to reach our objectives. I think that should be possible. French companies are showing great interest in entering the Iranian market. The same trend is happening for the French tourists as well.

Setting up overseas tourism representative offices in France is the fourth axis of the agreement and as it is predicted, we hope to run two agencies in two cities in France by the end of 2016.

Cooperation in commercialisation of tourism products – especially for mountain and ski holidays is the fifth point of this agreement. In a meeting with the French private sectors in Iran, a French institute with 200 sub-agencies, expressed its interest in mountain and ski tourism in Iran.

So to summarise, there are a number of reasons for going to Iran…

Indeed. Iran, with the mentioned capacities and the historical, cultural and natural attractions can be a very desirable destination for French tourists. Evidently, the exchange of tourists demonstrates a satisfactory interaction and communication between our two countries. I take this opportunity to invite all tour operators and travel agencies of France to the Tehran International Tourism Exhibition which will be held on 6th-9th February, 2017 and here I state the slogan of this exhibition as my key message to the French tourism industry activists: “See Iran Differently”.