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    Hotel groups eye Iran tourism potential as sanctions deal nears - Financial Times

    Iran - Hotel groups eye Iran tourism potential as sanctions deal nears - Financial Times


    Hotel groups eye Iran tourism potential as sanctions deal nears - Financial Times
    By Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Monavar Khalaj in Tehran
    Publish Date: JUNE 22, 2015

    Opening of four-star Axis hotel an indication of how fast things could change

    In the years before the Islamic revolution in 1979, Tehran’s luxurious hotels were visited by stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Paul McCartney. After the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, the Islamic republic severed contracts with the Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton, and those hotels fell under state control. While they may still bear the five stars that allude to a more glamorous era, the service rarely lives up to it. This year’s opening of a four-star Axis hotel in Tehran under the management of France’s Accor, with a five star Axis Prime set to open soon nearby, is an indication of how fast things could change. Not since the Islamic revolution has a western company managed a hotel in Iran. This month, Iran hopes to strike a comprehensive nuclear dealwith world powers, paving the way for the end of sanctions and — Iran hopes — a boost in foreign investment and tourism. Still it is not clear how Accor — Europe’s largest hotel group by number of rooms — secured the contract given continued sanctions. While the sanctions do not directly target the tourism industry, they prohibit the transfer of money to or from Iran unless for basic commodities or medicine. The French hotelier did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Axis. Saeed Shirkavand, a deputy for development affairs of the tourism organisation confirmed that the two new airport hotels are under Accor management “which is providing services based on its global standards”. Axis has changed some aspects of its service to comply with local norms. It does not serve alcohol and women employees behind the reception desk wear Islamic dress. But the welcoming staff and the availablility of real French coffee and espresso mark the hotel out as cut above the 100 or so other hotels in Iran that claim to have four and five stars.

    Accor is now poised to benefit from the doors opening to one of the world’s biggest untapped tourist destinations, home to huge and historic attractions such as Persepolis and Isfahan. Rumours are rife that other French groups are negotiating with Iran about the construction and management of hotels. Bouygues, the French construction, media and telecoms conglomerate, declined to comment, as did the UAE-based Rotana hotel management group, understood to be planning hotels in Tehran and the holy city of Mashhad. The potential is huge. Already the number of European tourists has more than doubled since centrist president Hassan Rouhani came to power more than two years ago. Around 6m tourists visited last year — many of whom were pilgrims from the regions — generating up to $7.5bn or about 2 per cent of GDP, according to official figures. “Tourism was an abandoned and totally forgotten industry in Iran’s economy,” said Mr Shirkavand. “Hotel construction in Iran is a big attraction as the number of our four and five-star hotels have to at least triple over the next decade.” As it stands, it is questionable if Iran’s infrastructure could cope with more tourists. “Our tourism infrastructure cannot respond to a tsunami of tourists if we face it,” acknowledged Mr Shirkavand. Hoteliers are getting ready. Didar Complex, an Iranian group, began to build a $300m 300-room British-designed hotel more than a year ago in central Tehran. For its plan to come to fruition, sanctions need to be lifted so they can raise foreign finance. “Our preference is for a European investor like Germans or even Turks who will work only if sanctions are lifted,” said Shahram Poursafar, chairman of the board of Didar Complex. “But if sanctions continue then we have to work with a Chinese partner.”

    Abridged from: Financial Times


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    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.