Iranians can expect an influx of tourists in the years to come. Our nation has been through many changes over the decades and recent years, and a boom in the tourism industry will be step up for us. The world has missed out on a beautiful country, which is more diverse than some might think.
[caption id="attachment_1687" align="alignleft" width="300"] Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System - UNESCO World Heritage Site[/caption]
Our ancient Persian history has many great sites to view, and our culture, music and food have an interesting, unique mix. The nature in Iran is spectacular, and we boast of having 19 World Heritage Sites within our nation alone. In fact, last year we saw two more of our sites, namely the Susa archeological mounds, and Mevmand village, being included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. We have far more than any other Middle Eastern country, and we hope that the rest of the world will become aware of what Iran has to offer and come to explore our beautiful land.
[caption id="attachment_1688" align="alignright" width="300"] Breathtaking views from a ski resort in Iran[/caption]
In future, we hope to promote some of our spots which are not that well-known to tourists and draw in huge numbers. We have a total of 19 ski resorts across the country, with a range of activities on offer, including mountain climbing, skiing, and bird-watching. We aim to bring more people to our country to see just how vast and beautiful it is, as Iran is sometimes regarded as a dry, arid region to many foreigners from far off nations.
Iran has been recognized by international travel magazines, including Afar magazine and Rough Guide, and we can only aim to see more outstanding reviews to promote our country as we move forward. The editors of Afar magazine described their trip to Iran as one of the most "provocative trips" of the year 2015. We were highlighted as being the top destination to visit considering our mountain scenery, ancient history, bazaars and beautiful mosques.
[caption id="attachment_1690" align="alignleft" width="300"] Iran's natural beauty[/caption]
Much of our tourism income comes from the neighboring countries such as Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. Iraqis are our most frequent visitors, and we host at least 1.65 million each year.
Iranian officials are hoping that recently implemented measures including the relaxing of visa rules and aggressive hotel development plans will likewise increase their tourism numbers from 5 million in 2014 to 20 million by 2025.
The investment by foreign hospitality groups in our tourism industry is a positive move for Iran. Earlier this year, we saw the opening of two hotels, Novotel, and Ibis, at Tehran International Airport by a French hospitality group, Accor Hotels. There are also four further developments in the works, as UAE's Rotana Hotel group has implemented plans to open in the next two years.
In the coming years, there is a lot of potential to develop our tourism industry, as we see more relaxed visas requirements for visitors. Other significant points, such as the banking issues of not being able to make any online transactions or credit card payments within Iran need to be addressed. We are well-positioned and have good connecting air links to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Foreigners often tend to be concerned for their safety. There is, however, seldom a need to panic, and Iran has over the years been seen as "the most misunderstood" country.
In future, we can see Iran as being one the world's most sought after travel destinations, as people from all corners of the globe come and experience our amazing culture and all we have to offer.