Official data indicates Iran is once again a popular tourist attraction, drawing young visitors across the globe who are looking for cheap destinations.
Over six million people visited Iran between March 2016 and 2017, indicating a 50 percent increase from the previous year and three times the number in 2009, statistics revealed.
After the lifting of sanctions on Tehran following the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, many airlines resumed direct flights including British Airways and Lufthansa (DLAKY).
Visa requirements are now more relaxed than before as Iran hopes to attract over 20 million visitors by 2025, according to the state tourism agency.
Although citizens of many Western countries can acquire a visa on arrival, Americans, Brits, and Canadians have to apply ahead of time.
Also, since certain sanctions remain enforced, the country has fewer links to international banking networks, and Western credit cards won’t work there, making booking accommodations a challenge.
Nonetheless, local entrepreneurs and foreign businesses see the booming industry as a chance for investment.
International hotel chains are moving fast to meet the demand for more rooms although many investors still hesitate to trust Iran with their funds as the country keeps testing missiles despite warnings from the US.
France’s Accor (ACCYY) was the first chain to open in Iran in 2015 and now operates two hotels there.
Spain’s Melia (SMIZF) is expected to open its first hotel next year.
Rotana of the United Arab Emirates also plans to open one hotel by early next year and three more by 2020.