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Tourism in Iran

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Title: Tourism in Iran  
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Subject: Economy of Iran, Iran, International rankings of Iran, Iran International Exhibitions Company, Homa Hotel Group
Collection: Economy of Iran, Tourism in Iran, Tourist Attractions in Iran
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Tourism in Iran

Iran currently ranks 68th in tourism revenues worldwide. Iran with attractive natural and historical sites is rated among the 10 most touristic countries in the world in terms of its history, diversity of climatic conditions and the variety of landscapes.[1][2]
Abbasi Hotel in Isfahan

The landscape of Iran is diverse, providing a range of activities from hiking and skiing in the Alborz mountains, to beach holidays by the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Over the next five years a number of tourism-friendly infrastructure projects will be undertaken on the Persian Gulf island of Kish, which at present attracts around 1m visitors per year, the majority of whom are Iranian.[3][4]

Before the Iranian revolution, tourism was characterized by significant numbers of visitors traveling to Iran for its diverse attractions, boasting cultural splendours and a diverse and beautiful landscape suitable for a range of activities.[3] Tourism declined dramatically during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s.

Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the majority of foreign visitors to Iran have been religious pilgrims and businesspeople.[3][5] Official figures do not distinguish between those travelling to Iran for business and those coming for pleasure, and they also include a large number of diaspora Iranians returning to visit their families in Iran or making pilgrimages to holy Shia sites near Mashhad and elsewhere.[3] Domestic tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world.[6] Despite the international tensions, the government continues to project strong rises in visitor numbers and tourism revenue for the foreseeable future, and to talk of projects to build an additional 100 hotels, for example, to expand its currently limited stock.[3] In 2011, the number of foreign tourists in Iran reached 3 million, contributing more than $2 billion to the national economy.[7][8] The strong devaluation of the Iranian Rial since early 2012 is also a positive element for tourism in Iran.


  • Foreign visitors 1
    • Visa requirement 1.1
  • Infrastructure and the economy 2
    • Organization of Cultural Heritage and Tourism 2.1
  • Outward tourism 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Foreign visitors

Beach front on Kish Island

The most up-to-date figures from the

  • Iranian Hospitality Industry - PressTV (2010)
  • Tourism in Iran - PressTV 2011
  • Rick Steves' Iran Lectures
  • Rick Steves' Iran PBS video documentary on Iran (2009)
  • Health care and health tourism in Iran - Part I Part II Part III (PressTV)
  • Irpedia Tourism - The official website of tourism industry association of Iran
  • Iran's official tourism website List of tourist attractions. Also helps tourists apply for entrance visas online and provides them with important phone numbers and necessary information about transportation and foreign Embassies in the country.
  • Iranian Students Tourism & Travel - affiliated with the Academic Center for Education, Culture, and Research
  • Electronic visa for foreigners - Iranian Foreign Ministry
  • "" - online visa application for U.S. citizens - Iranian Consular services in Washington D.C.
  • Pictures of Iran - WorldIsRound
  • Iran Photo Gallery - 782 color, high-resolution Creative Commons images of Iran from a 2012 journey.
  • Iran Travel and Tourism at DMOZ

External links

  • A Glimpse of Iran (first encyclopedic English book on tourism in Iran) by Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization
  • Books on Travel to Iran
  • Travels in the 'Real Iran' by Eric Weiner, World Hum, June 19, 2009

Further reading

  1. ^ Travel To Iran - Tourism in Iran Retrieved 23 January 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e Ayse, Valentine; Nash, Jason John; Leland, Rice (January 2013). "The Business Year 2013: Iran". London, U.K.: The Business Year. p. 166.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Iran Travel And Tourism Forecast", Economist Intelligence Unit, August 18, 2008 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Press TV". Press TV. 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Herald Globe". 2008-11-15. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ iran-daily
  12. ^]
  13. ^ COUNTRY PROFILE: IRAN Retrieved 12 February 2008
  14. ^  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ a b c d "No. 3816 | Front page | Page 1". Irandaily. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  16. ^ "Fars News Agency :: Ahmadinejad Stresses Iran's Growing Medical Tourism Industry". 2012-01-17. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  17. ^ "No Operation". Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  18. ^ Tehran Times: Iran’s foreign tourist arrivals continue to increase Retrieved February 16, 2012
  19. ^ "Doing business in Iran - For Australian exporters". Austrade. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  20. ^
  21. ^


See also

Traditionally, only a small number of wealthy Iranian tourists traveled abroad, and the majority of the trips were business departures, mostly to neighboring states in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East (1 mil. each year), Central Asia and Turkey (~1 mil.). Although this is likely to continue to characterize much Iranian travel abroad, since the change of regime in Iraq in 2003, Iranians from all walks of life have visited their western neighbor. In addition, a large proportion of Iranians traveling abroad are likely to be visiting family, especially in Europe, the US and Australia (~1 mil.).[3] Up until early 2012, because the Iranian rial was overvalued, the Iranian government was subsidizing its travelers abroad (2010). In 2011, some 27 million travelers and businessmen passed the Iranian custom departments.[20] Following the Iranian subsidy reform plan, airfares in Iran went up by 65% in 2012.[21]

(Source: EIU)[3] 2004 2005 2006 est.
International tourism, departures ('000) 3,478 3,648 3,986
International tourism, expenditure (US$ m) 4,353 1,380 1,579
Iran Air is Iran's national airline

Outward tourism

Iran's '20-Year Vision' document projects investment of over $32 billion in the country's tourism sector and tragets 20 million tourists by 2025.[17][18] In order to encourage domestic and foreign direct investment in this sector, the 50 per cent tax exemption previously granted to tourism enterprises has been extended to include five-star hotels.[19] Tariffs for utilities comply with industrial ones.[15]

Officials state that Iran has in recent years earned about US$1bn a year from tourism.[3] Close to 1.8% of national employment is generated in the tourism sector.[2] Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.[3]

Area considered for further expansion in the tourism sector in Iran are eco tourism, coastlines, restoration of historical relics, handicraft townships, and health tourism (e.g. water therapy).[6][15] 30,000 people come to Iran each year to receive medical treatment (2012).[16]

Iran's free trade zones are exempt from taxes for up to 20 years.[15]

Reason for domestic travel and overnight stay[2]

  Visiting friends and relatives (49%)
  Sightseeing and entertainment (24%)
  Pilgrimage (17%)
  Medical (6%)
  Other (4%)

Organization of Cultural Heritage and Tourism

In recent years, 235 hotels, hotel apartments, motels and guesthouses have become operational nationwide. As at 2010, 400 hotels and 200 hotel apartments are under construction nationwide. Some 66 percent of these projects are underway in the provinces of Tehran, Gilan, Mazandaran, Razavi Khorasan and Isfahan.[15]

In FY 2003 Iran had about 69,000 restaurants and 6,000 hotels and other lodging places; about 80 percent of these establishments were in urban areas. Some 875 restaurants and hotels were publicly managed by cooperatives and government organizations. More than 95 percent of restaurants and hotels had fewer than five employees, and only 38 had more than 100 employees. In FY 2002 this sector employed more than 166,000 people, 42,000 of whom worked in places of lodging. Of the 56,618 beds in all hotels, about half were located in three- to five-star hotels.[14]

In the early 2000s the industry still faced serious limitations in infrastructure, communications, regulatory norms, and personnel training.[13] In late 2003 there were about 640 hotels in Iran and around 63,000 beds.[3]

Dizin ski resort near Tehran.

Infrastructure and the economy

In general, Iran has tried to improve its complex and time-consuming visa application process and has begun to issue week-long visas for the nationals of 68 countries at airports. An online hotel reservation system has been developed. Iran will equip all airports with electronic visa facilities by February 2009 to issue online entry permits to foreign nationals.[11] Visas can now be secured electronically and be collected from Iranian consulates or international airports.[12] Iran has 15 road border crossings connecting it with Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Rail lines from Turkey and Turkmenistan can also be used to enter Iran.[3] About 70% of visitors arrived by land in 2002, about 29% by air and less than 1% by sea.[3] The price of internal flights is heavily subsidised, deterring competition and hampering profitability. In April 2005 the Imam Khomeini International Airport was reopened under the management of a consortium of four local airlines—Mahan Air, Aseman, Caspian Air and Kish Air—although no formal contract appeared to have been awarded.[3]

Visa requirement

(Source: EIU)[3] 2004 2005 2006 est.
International tourism, arrivals ('000) 1,656 1,720 1,769
International tourism, receipts (US$ m) 917 971 1,022

The number of international arrivals has been steadily increasing, up from 2.2 million people in 2009 to 3.6 million in 2011, with per capita spending of $1,850 per visit on average.[2][10]

In 2011, most of Iran’s international visitors arrived in Iran solely for the purpose of leisure travel. Leisure tourists arriving from abroad are also often relatives of Iranian citizens or expatriates residing outside of Iran returning to visit. Another key segment of international arrival traffic are pilgrims come to pay a visit to one of the many holy sites scattered throughout the country.[2]

The World Travel and Tourism Council claims that business and personal tourism rose by 11.3% and 4.6%, respectively, in real terms in 2007, with the growth in personal tourism only modestly below that of the preceding year.[3]

From 2004, the country experienced a 100-percent growth in foreign tourist arrivals until mid-2008 when the number of foreign arrivals surged up to 2.5 million. Specially, there has been an enormous increase in the number of German tourists traveling to Iran in 2008.[9]

According to Iranian officials, about 1,659,000 foreign tourists visited Iran in 2004 - although government statistics don't distinguish between tourism, business and religious pilgrims; most came from Asian countries, including the republics of Central Asia, while a small share (about 10%) came from North America and the European Union including Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, France, Belgium.[3] The most popular tourist destinations are Esfahan, Mashhad, and Shiraz. There is undoubtedly great scope for increased visitors from the Islamic world, and possibly also from non-Muslim countries with which Iran is developing business and political links, such as China and India.[3]

The majority of the 300,000 Germany, France, UK and other European countries come to Iran annually to visit archaeological sites and monuments.


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