News ID: 4093358 - Fri 22 September 2017 - 10:21 Culture TEHRAN, Sep. 22 (MNA) – Statistics shows that Iran is currently ranked 15th in terms of tourist attractions in the world. A series of hurdles such as sanctions and propaganda by the west, especially in the media, has prevented Iran’s tourism industry from flourishing. Iran is a country with high potential in tourism industry and since historic nuclear deal reached between Iran and the 5+1 group of countries in 2015, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) geared up to make its mark in the industry. Iran is located in an area where threats are rampant around the country. Opposite to what many believe, Iran is actually very stable in an area that is representative of instability. At present the Iranian government is planning to attract more tourists which the initiative would create a huge number of jobs and produce around billions of dollars for the country. World’s cheapest tourist destination: At the time being another key point that adds to Iran’s advantage in this industry must be assessed- Iran is the world’s cheapest tourist destination. This fact has been reported by the World Economic Forum (WEF) who has assessed nearly 141 countries, PressTV wrote. Statistics show that Iran is currently ranked 15th in terms of tourist attractions in the world. A series of hurdles such as sanctions and propaganda by the west, especially in the media, has prevented Iran’s tourism industry from flourishing. From this 1.5 billion dollar industry, Iran has only been able to obtain 7.5 million dollars and therefore has ranked 35th in this respect. In addition to economic issues, one of the essential factors that have led to the number of tourists is safety. The idea that foreign tourists visit an area where safety is guaranteed is impossible. Healthy revenues: Attractions of Iran’s tourism industry are drawing a stronger attention now that the country has opened its doors in light of the removal of economic sanctions last month. Iran is making a fresh pitch for tourists with the recent lifting of economic sanctions providing an opportunity to cash in. Tourists, and the healthy revenues they could generate, are among the huge economic changes stemming from the nuclear deal, AFP wrote. Ski resorts, UNESCO-listed world heritage sites and deserts combine with cities steeped in Middle Eastern grandeur and tradition, adds the report. A tourism push was launched after PresidentHassan Rouhani came to power in 2013. Iranian officials have already said that about five million foreign travelers visited Iran in 2014, and that the country aims to attract 20 million tourists, spending $30 billion, by 2025. Entry procedures have been simplified, meaning visitors from only 11 countries are not eligible for a visa on arrival. The United States, Britain, Canada and France top the exclusion list but some people will not be put off by the restrictions. According to the New York Times, there has been a surge in bookings for Iran trips by American tourists. Tour operators say the demand has been so acute that they are racing to add new departures and selling them in record time, it reported. World’s oldest cultural monuments: Iran hosts some of the world’s oldest cultural monuments, including 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and its varied terrain ranges from desert locales to ski resorts. A tourism adventure to Iran could all start right in capital Tehran and with skiing if you are visiting the country during winters. The city’s Tochal ski resort is one of several close to the capital. Most tourists will then make trips to Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd, cities which are internationally known to be much more beautiful and relaxed than Tehran, AFP’s report added. Among the popular sites in Isfahan is Imam Square, second in size only to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but with water fountains and impressive architecture the Iranian site is much more attractive. For President Rouhani, tourism offers a way to offset falling oil prices that have slashed government income. It comes as tourists shun many parts of the Middle East because of war and a recent wave of terrorist attacks in countries including Egypt and Tunisia, the report added. Most affordable prices: Iran’s tourism industry has been identified for a third straight year to have the most affordable prices in the world for foreign visitors. A biannual report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) gave Iran a score of 66.6 in terms of price competitiveness and put it ahead of global tourism players such as Egypt, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Spain, the US, Franc and Italy. The last 10 countries at the bottom of the list in the same category included Peru, Australia, Denmark, Senegal, Norway, Iceland, Barbados, Britain and Switzerland. The price competitiveness of countries in the WEF’s “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017” were measured by comparing costs relating to travel to and from a destination (travel costs including ticket prices, taxes, fuel rates, etc) and those relating to prices within the tourism destination (ground costs including hotel prices, service rates, food prices, etc). Iran was also given a ranking of 38 in terms of cultural resources – the number of World Heritage natural sites, total known species, total protected areas and attractiveness of natural assets. The WEF report showed that Iran’s overall travel and tourism competitiveness ranking had improved by four points over the past two years, PressTV wrote. It identified Iran as the 93rd country with the appropriate set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector. Those factors, it said, include business environment, safety and security, health and hygiene, human resources and the labor market as well as its readiness in terms of information and communication technology (ICT). Iran's tourism industry booming An American media says while some Western firms fear President Trump could yet torpedo the nuclear deal, Iran's tourism industry is booming. More than 6 million people visited Iran in the year ending March 2017, up 50% on the previous year and three times the number in 2009, according to official data. The surge in visitors follows the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that resulted in many sanctions being lifted early the following year, CNN reported. European airlines such as BritishAirways and Lufthansa (DLAKY) resumed direct flights to the country, and Iranian authorities relaxed visa requirements. And as more people arrive, demand for accommodation is skyrocketing. That's creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs and foreign businesses. Unlike some Western firms, who are reluctant to invest in Iran because they fear President Trump could yet torpedo the nuclear deal, international hotel chains are moving fast to meet the need for more rooms. France's Accor (ACCYY) was the first chain to open in Iran in 2015. It now operates two hotels there. Spain's Melia (SMIZF) will open its first hotel next year. Rotana of the United Arab Emirates also has one hotel in the pipeline for early next year and plans three more by 2020. EasyHotel, a UK-based budget chain, is reported to have signed a deal in July to deliver 500 rooms. It did not respond to a request for comment. Many of the new visitors are young backpackers from Europe and Asia, drawn by Iran's history and culture. The most popular destinations include the ancient cities of Esfahan and Shiraz. It's also home to Persepolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site.