“Almost eight million foreign tourists arrived in the country last (Iranian calendar) year,” said Ali-Asghar Mounesan, adding that the figure shows a 40-percent year-on-year increase.
Mounesan said each tourist coming to the country spends an average sum of $1,400 during stay, adding almost all the money earned from tourists should be viewed as net income as investment has been very low compared to the revenues generated in the sector.
He said the increase in foreign tourist arrivals and revenues have come despite sanctions imposed by the United States in the past year, adding that major accommodation places across the country have been booked up for months to come.
Mounesan, a deputy president whose department has recently turned into a ministry, said the government would double the budget earmarked to the tourism and handicrafts management as the sectors keep attracting massive foreign currencies.
The official also said that Iran eyes $2 billion worth of exports of handicrafts, saying all provinces have huge potentials and could help meet the target.
Mounesan said the decision to turn Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization to a ministry would also allow the government to have a better policy for protection of historic monuments and artifacts, and attract more tourists who are mainly interested in Iran’s cultural heritage.
According to him, 226 tourism projects, including 16 in Tehran, would be operational during the Government Week (August 24-30).
Based on the World Tourism Organization rankings, Iran is among top 10 tourism hubs in the world with more than one million tourist attractions, he said.
Investors and tourists have recently paid great attention to ecotourism accommodation, the official said, adding that the number of ecotourism units has increased from 400 to 1,700 during the 12th administration’s term.
He concluded that the recent government decision to allow visa-free entry for the Caspian Sea littoral states’ tourists is another policy to promote foreign tourism in Iran.
Press TV, IRNA and president.ir contributed to this story.