TEHRAN - The entry of European tourists to Iran has risen 240 percent between April 9 and May 10 compared to the same period last year, Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization Director Masoud Soltanifar said on Saturday.
Most of the 4- and 5-star hotels in the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, and Kashan have been fully reserved by European tourists for the next six months, the IRNA news agency quoted Soltanifar as saying.
Iran may be set to return to the top of “must-visit” lists for 2014, the Financial Times said in a report in January.
Its attractions have never been in doubt -- from ski resorts to beaches, stunning Islamic architecture, ancient archaeological sites, and superb food.
Now, tour operators are hoping the thawing of political relations with the west following the election of Hassan Rouhani as president will give travelers the reassurance they need to return.
Rouhani’s administration has announced plans to ease visa requirements to increase visitor numbers and increase annual income from tourism from $2 billion today to $10 billion.
On Thursday, May 15, Iranian Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi said that development of the tourism industry should be taken seriously, since it can be one of the cornerstones of the “resistance economy” proposed by the Supreme Leader.
“Serious attention should be paid to the issue of tourism, and as one of the pillars of the resistance economy… it can be a matter of special attention,” Alavi told a meeting of people active in the tourism industry.
He went on to say that tourism is one of the many apparatuses for familiarizing the world with “our revolution”, a reference to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
“Our view and the direction in the Ministry of Intelligence is to remove problems and hurdles for the promotion of tourism,” he added.