posted at 00:50
Author Name: Siavosh Ghazi
Seizing its chance, Iran seeks tourism revival
"Mr Rouhani's demeanour, his smile, his positive interaction with the world has created a new sense of ease," says Ibrahim Pourfaraj, president of Iran's tour operators association. Thomas, an engineer from Stuttgart, says the nuclear issue is the only thing he hears about Iran in the news back home. Shiite pilgrims from Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Pakistan currently make up 60 percent of Iran's visitors. For Iran - whose currency, the rial, has been severely depressed by rampant inflation - tourism offers a foreign exchange windfall. The cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd, all steeped in culture, are considered Iran's top attractions, but sites such as Kish Island with its beaches on the Gulf have sought to create a more relaxed holiday. Iran, with 17 UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, wants 20 million visitors within a decade. Iran's shortfalls are not confined to translators. "Our capabilities are limited compared to the influx of tourists," Massoud Soltani-Far, one of Iran's vice presidents whose brief includes tourism, recently said at an industry conference.

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