It really is the one to look out for in 2016!

Iran set to build another 125 luxury hotels as it pushes on with plans to be this year’s must-see…

  • Iran1 aims to increase visitors to 20million by 2025, which it’s hoped will add 20billion to the economy
  • Number of hotels built in past year more than the total built in last century – and huge developments are coming
  • Rotana, Accor, Melia and Jumeirah hotels have all signal their commitment and have unveiled some grand designs
  • With sanctions lifted over country’s nuclear transparency officials hope tourism industry can be re-invigorated



Backing up its aim to be one of the must-visit destinations for 2016, Iran2 is set to construct 125 luxury hotels. With the government’s tourism arm aiming to increase visitors to the Middle Eastern country to 20 million by 2025, a 20 fold increase, hopes are that it can contribute 20billion to the economy. Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, confirmed that many of the hotels are near to completion, and the numbers built in the last year are more than the total produced in the last century.

It’s hoped this kind of luxury, shown off at Iran’s newest five-star hotel – the Espinas Palace hotel in Tehran – will attract millions of tourists

The Espinas Palace has been constructed on a 15,000 sq metre site and has sports facilities, restaurants and cafes, conference halls, and a 2,500 seat concert hall

Iran’s Espinas Palace is the country’s biggest five-star hotel with very high levels of luxury

With nods to the country’s history throughout, Iran’s government will be hoping the Espinas Palace will help re-invigorate the tourism industry

It is hoped that the removal of sanctions against Iran in light of its progression over its nuclear case can provide a positive outlook to its tourism industry. Accor, which is Europe’s largest hotel group, has already constructed two four-star hotels at Imam Khomeini International Airport outside the Iranian capital. And Rotana are set to open four hotels in the next two years, two in the city of Mashhad set to be completed by the end of 2017, and two in Tehran due to open in 2018.

Amin Dakkak, corporate director of marketing & communications told MailOnline Travel: ‘Rotana was the first hotel management company to announce its expansion plans in the Iranian market, after signing the management agreement in March 2013 for four properties currently under development, all of which will be opened under the company’s alcohol-free brand “Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts” by Rotana. This is an artist’s impression of the sprawling Rotana Tehran hotel, which will be one of four constructed in Iran by the company

Rotana’s first two hotels are set to open in the city of Mashhad including this 362 room hotel in 2017. A 275 room hotel will follow in 2018


Iran needs more than 400 new passenger planes to compensate for shortages due to sanctions over the past three decades. Of its 250 passenger planes, 100 are currently grounded because of lack of spare parts.

The remaining 150 ageing aircraft need to be renovated.

‘We need to renovate our air transportation system and buy new planes after sanctions are lifted. But this will be time-consuming,’ said Masoud Soltanifar, who is also Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization chief. There have been hundreds of casualties in Iran in recent years from plane crashes.

‘The first two hotels are set to open in the city of Mashhad a 362 room hotel in 2017 followed by a 275 room hotel in 2018.

‘In Tehran, Rotana will launch two further Rayhaan properties by 2018 a five-star hotel will house 194 rooms and a four-star hotel will include 210 rooms.

‘With the lifting of sanctions, we are sure that all developers and operators will be racing to secure their position in one of the world’s largest untapped markets.’

Soltanifar was speaking at the official opening of Iran’s biggest five-star hotel, the Espinas Palace hotel, Tehran. It has been constructed on a 15,000 sq metre site and sports restaurants and cafes, conference halls, and a 2,500 seat concert hall.

With improved relations, Iran’s beaches, breathtaking Islamic architecture and incredible food could see the country soar to the top of the ‘must-visit’ destinations of 2016. Soltanifar said President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate policies and the easing of visa rules are opening the door for the return of foreign tourists to Iran. Melia Hotels and Jumeirah Hotel Group are also considering expansion into Iran.

Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, was speaking at the official opening of the Espinas Palace


  • Rotana to build a 362-room hotel in 2017 in Mashhad followed by a 275 room hotel in the same city in 2018.
  • Two further Rayhaan (alcohol-free) properties in Tehran by 2018 a five-star hotel will house 194 rooms and a four-star hotel will include 210 rooms.
  • Melia Hotels and Jumeirah Hotel Group have signalled their intent to expand into Iran

Speaking to MailOnline Travel, David McGuinness, co-founder of specialist tour operator Travel The Unknown believes now could be perfect time to visit Iran. He said: ‘The nuclear deal opens up new prospects for Iran as a tourist destination.

‘People sometimes forget that Iran was one of the oldest tourist destinations, attracting people to its ancient sites before tourism as a concept had really begun to take hold.

‘Iran has a wealth of attractions – ancient cities like Persepolis and Pasargadae built by famous leaders like Cyrus the Great, and Darius, stunning Islamic art and architecture, reaching its zenith in Esfahan.

‘It’s a supremely friendly and welcoming country, despite what our preconceptions may lead us to believe. Hospitality is in their blood.

‘Now the path forward to a normalisation of relations, while certainly not assured, is beginning to emerge into the light – and with this a rebirth of tourism in Iran.’. A country rich in historical and cultural treasures, Iran will unveil an investment package of 1,300 projects in the coming days to attract foreign investment and boost the badly-hit tourism industry.

Iran is home to 19 Unesco-registered sites, including the ancient city of Bisotun. Even before sanctions are lifted, the number of foreigners visiting Iran has grown 12 per cent in each of the past two years. In 2014, Iran hosted over five million tourists, bringing in some $7.5 billion ( 4.8 billion) in revenue.

The Shaw or Imam Mosque in Imam Square, Esfahan, has retained its spiritual beauty over the years. The country’s architecture has been acclaimed far and wide

Meidan-e Emam square with Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in the background

About half were Shiite Muslims, the same religious denomination as most Iranians, and the other half were tourists from Europe, North America and east Asia.

‘In the post-sanctions era, tourism is an industry that will get a boost more than any other sector,’ Soltanifar told the AP.

‘Tourism is certainly the driving engine to get Iran’s economy out of recession. Iran’s tourism sector is a flourishing market for investors. We are anticipating a tsunami of tourists after sanctions are lifted.’

The reopening of the UK embassy in Iran after four years has been a step in the right direction for travellers’ peace of mind. Many travellers have discovered its rich history, magnificent architecture and enthralling culture – and its amazing hospitality.


From ancient temples and mosques to monuments cloaked in years of history, there’s plenty to discover in Iran. Perhaps its most famous site, Unesco-protected Persepolis, is the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings, and was not recovered until the 1930s. Visitors to the Tachara Palace will see the famous bas-reliefs depicting kings, courtiers and other gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire.

The Gate of all nations forms part of the Persepolis, which is bound to be a tourist hotspot

Persepolis is the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings, and was not discovered until the 1930s

In the north is the highest active volcano in Asia, Mount Damavand, which has a special place in Persian mythology. While the incredible Sassanian rock-carvings at Tagh-e-Bostan depict a series of royal hunting scenes and the investitures of Sassanian Kings. The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence are a collection of flat-topped buildings from which the bodies of the dead were placed to prevent the body from being contaminated by demons the belief was that by exposing the body to the elements and vultures, the body would be purified.

Meanwhile, the 15th-century Jameh Mosque is arguably the greatest architectural landmark in the city of Yazdi.

The ghost town of Koporak in Yazd will offer tourists the opportunity to learn all about the history of Iran


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