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Iran  High Quality Hotels

Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has targeted the construction of 20 four- and five-star hotels by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2018).

According to Saeed Shirkavand, ICHHTO's deputy for investment, Iran had 125 luxury hotels by 2013, but 55 four- and five-star properties have also opened since then.

"Kickstarting an initiative to build hotels is our top achievement," he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

Attracting foreign investment to develop the country's hotel sector has been a major strategy of the department. However, foreign investors have mainly been involved in hotel management rather than hotel construction so far.

The official explained that certain processes must occur before hotel owners decide to put their money in the business in a foreign country.

"It is only after a certain destination becomes popular with tourists that hotel chains begin to study its potential," he said.

"It takes at least a year before investors decide whether expanding their business in the target destination is profitable."

Shirkavand noted that hotel owners are gradually moving toward building properties in Iran, adding that no contracts to build hotels have been signed yet.

Iran has set an ambitious target of 20 million tourists a year by 2025, which should potentially generate $25-30 billion. The main obstacle, however, is its aging and underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly hotels.

The country has 180 four- and five-star hotels, while industry insiders say it needs at least 400 good quality lodging facilities to accommodate the projected 20 million travelers.

French group AccorHotels became the first foreign branded hotel to set up shop in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution when they opened two hotels–Ibis and Novotel–last October near Imam Khomeini International Airport, 30 km south of Tehran.

Accor has also started training middle managers and staff to improve the quality of hotel services in Iran, which field is in dire need of further investment.

The UAE-based Rotana, which is expanding its business to Tehran and Mashhad, is expected to launch two of its four hotels by 2018. Spain’s Melia Hotels International is to open a five-star property called Gran Melia Ghoo in Salman Shahr, Mazandaran Province, on Caspian Sea.

Tourism officials announced last year that a group of Turkish business leaders and German luxury hotel firm Steigenberger Hotels have agreed to build 20 hotels in Iran in the next decade.

However, based on Shirkavand's statements, it seems unlikely that any deal has been signed yet.

Tehran Health Tourism Hospital

The Erfan-Niayesh Hospital to promote health tourism was inaugurated in western Tehran on Saturday. The specialized hospital, built over an area of 31,000 sq meters with eight floors, is said to be one of the largest and advanced facilities for medical tourism in the region.

The $65 million private-sector project has 250 beds, 18 operating rooms, and a 1,000 sq meter emergency room and services with 28 beds.

“Promoting medical tourism is among the main aims of this hospital,” said Seyyed Gholamreza Fanaei, director of the facility, quoted by Mehr News Agency.

“The goal will be achieved in two ways: admitting overseas patients and sending physicians and specialists to foreign medical facilities, especially in the region,” he said.

The hospital is equipped with high-tech devices on par with global standards including operating room equipment and supplies and has advanced imaging techniques such as CT-scan, cardiac and cerebral angiography, and dialysis, among others. Additionally, the magnetic resonance video imaging (MRI video) has been launched for the first time at this facility.

First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi, the adviser to the Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, and other high-ranking officials attended the opening ceremony.

Laparoscopy devices for minimally invasive operations, specialized microscopes for advanced neurosurgeries, and a state-of-the-art radiotherapy ward equipped with the latest cancer treatment tools are among other facilities at the hospital. A separate infertility treatment ward with IVF services, prenatal genetic screening, and genetic engineering is also operational.

As part of health tourism, patients are received on arrival at the airport.

“After undergoing the necessary medical procedures and the following recovery, the health tourists will visit Iran’s main touristic attractions, after which they will return to their home country,” Fanaei added.

Initial talks have been held with Ukraine and Azerbaijan to send Iranian doctors to examine and treat patients at hospitals in the two countries.

 100 Hospitals Authorized for IPD

The Health Ministry has authorized nearly 100 hospitals across the country to admit international patients in one or more wards.

 “Ninety-eight hospitals were granted IPD (International Patients Department) permits from among 299 hospitals that had applied for the license,” Mohammad Hossein Mirdehqan, the head of Treatment Supervision Office at the Health Ministry, said in September.

Also, Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has issued licenses for 14 tour companies to operate in the sector as part of plans to develop health tourism. The schemes are aimed at eliminating unauthorized middlemen who exploit the lack of efficient management in the key sector and create a negative image for Iran.

Iran’s annual revenue from medical tourism is said to be between $400-500 million and officials say it is expected to “reach $2.5 billion in the foreseeable future.”

According to a report earlier this year by Big Market Research, the global medical tourism market is estimated to reach $143 billion by 2022.

It was reported in May that the number of tourists traveling to Iran for advanced medical services has grown by 40% in the past five years.

Erfan-Niayesh is a subsidiary of Erfan Hospital in the capital’s Shahrak-e-Qods neighborhood and administered by a board of directors which includes Fanaei.

The private Erfan hospital opened in 2006 and has been awarded the Diamond Certificate of Accreditation Canada International (ACI), recognized worldwide as a leader in helping countries demonstrate their commitment to healthcare quality improvement and patient safety by providing accreditation to hospitals, clinics, primary care centers and health systems.

It was granted a license for health tourism by the Health Ministry and has received several prizes in innovative healthcare from Belgium.

Another sophisticated medical tourism facility, the 140-bed specialized Gandhi Hotel-Hospital established in central Tehran in 2009 on 17 floors, aims to ensure patients are fully taken care of and their families and relatives are as comfortable as possible during the treatment. It boasts of an emergency unit, special care units, day care clinics, VIP services, and several specialized wards.

The specialized and sub-specialized Noor Afshar Hospital in northeastern Tehran, Sasan Specialized Grand Hospital in downtown part of the capital, Baqiyatallah Specialized Hospital in Vanak neighborhood of Tehran, and Razavi Specialized Hospital in Khorasan Razavi Province are the other hospitals offering the latest services in medical care to international patients.

Iran tea production

Tea first reached Iran by caravans traveling the Silk Road 450 years before the modern Christian era. Residents were largely coffee drinkers until the seventeenth century but now consume four times the world average for tea.

The beverage is served hot at almost all social occasions and family gatherings.

Every morning, in houses all over Iran, a gas burner flickers to life under a kettle that will continue to boil all day. It boils through morning prayers, lunches of rice and kebabs, afternoon conversation and late into the evening meal, sustaining talk of politics, gossip and news well into the night.

The kettle contains tea, one of the most important cornerstones of Iranian culture, and the tea house is its centuries-old keeper.

Tea production is a major industry in the Caspian Sea area and a large part of its economy. Before 1900, there was no tea production in Iran, but in 1895, an Iranian diplomat named Kashef Al Saltaneh decided to change that.

At the time the English had a strict monopoly of tea production in India, with rigid rules against non-Europeans engaging in this trade. Kashef Al Saltaneh, who had studied in Paris as a young man and was fluent in French, went to India, posed as a French businessman, learned the trade and smuggled some tea saplings and seeds to Iran.

After six years of experimentation, he introduced his first product to the market, and started the industry that revolutionized the economy of two northern states, Gilan and Mazandaran, and made Iranians avid tea drinkers.

He is known today as the father of Iranian Tea, and his mausoleum, in the city of Lahijan, houses the tea museum.”

Health Tourism Startup-Iran

Renowned for its world-famous historical monuments, UNESCO heritage sites and natural beauty, Iran is expected to be mainly favored by cultural visitors and Nature enthusiasts. Although that's true, other fields of the hospitality sector, such as health tourism, also give the Middle East nation a competitive edge.

Hoping to capitalize on such potential is an Internet-based startup that, according to its founders, has experienced unexpected success in attracting health tourists since its inception in early summer.

Speaking to Financial Tribune, Mohammad Nasri, CEO, and co-founder of Tehran-based Ariamedtour, said, "From the day we launched our website, we have been inundated with requests from around the globe, including from neighboring countries."

Drawing on the traditional role of Iran as a regional medical hub, the group is offering professional treatments ranging from cosmetic surgery to general surgeries and cancer treatment.

"Iran has always been a medical attraction for citizens of neighboring countries, but we are one of the very first firms to streamline those services on an online platform," he said.

Iran has set the ambitious goal of attracting 20 million foreign tourists annually by 2025 but has largely focused on the country's rich culture and history as well as its natural wonders