Iranian officials are preparing for a "tsunami" of foreign tourists as the country begins implementing a landmark nuclear deal with the U.S. and five other world powers. Iranian Vice President Masoud Soltanifar told the Associated Press Sunday Iran will inject new investment into the country's rich historical and cultural sites, which have suffered a sharp decline in tourism during years of Western sanctions.
U.S. President Barack Obama signed the nuclear deal Sunday, officially putting into place an agreement that will lift Western sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program. Soltanifar said the easing of visa rules in Iran and President Hassan Rouhani's moderate policies should usher in a rise in foreign tourism.
"In the post-sanctions era, tourism is an industry that will get a boost more than any other sector," Soltanifar, who is also Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization chief, told the AP. "Tourism is certainly the driving engine to get Iran's economy out of recession. … We are anticipating a tsunami of tourists after sanctions are lifted."
Iran is also counting on its crude oil sector to jumpstart its struggling economy. Energy officials said this summer the country could export more than 1 million additional barrels of oil a day once sanctions are removed, nearly doubling the country's exports, from 1.2 million barrels today to 2.3 million barrels. (A barrel is 42 gallons).
U.S. energy experts have offered a more cautious outlook, noting Iran still needs to make significant investments and upgrades to its energy sector before ramping up oil exports. Richard Nephew, a program director at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said he expected Iran will increase exports by as much as 500,000 barrels oil per day within a year after the nuclear deal is finalized, International Business Times previously reported.
Iran will outline the country's new tourism strategy in coming days, Soltanifar said in the interview with the AP. Officials will announce investment in 1,300 projects to lure foreign investment and revitalize the badly hit tourism sector. Iran is home to 19 Unesco-registered sites, many of which remain largely unseen by Western visitors.
Iran aims roughly to quadruple the size of its tourism sector within the next decade, Soltanifar said. The country hopes to host 20 million tourists a year by 2025, up from more than 5 million tourists in 2014. It's also planning to draw around $30 billion in annual tourism revenue, up from $7.5 billion last year, the AP reported.
"American tourists and investors are welcome," said Soltanifar, a moderate politician. "There is no obstacle or restrictions for them to visit Iran or invest in the country," he added.