TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian firm signed an agreement with a major French hotel chain on Tuesday, in the first deal of its kind since Tehran reached a historic agreement with world powers on its disputed nuclear program.
Under the contract, the Aria Ziggurat Tourism Development Company will use the Novotel and ibis brands, both owned by French hotel giant AccorHotels, for 15 years starting next month. The two firms did not publicize the amount of the contract.
"We are certain that Novotel and ibis will fit perfectly into the growth momentum that Iran's hospitality sector is enjoying," AccorHotels Chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin told reporters at a press conference in Tehran. "Our brands are looking at huge growth potential in this country, which is home to almost 80 million people and is expanding its economy."
Mehdi Jahangiri, Aria Ziggurat's chairman, said "the expertise of international hospitality groups will upgrade local standards and existing levels of service in our hotels, and ultimately add value to our business."
AccorHotels currently manages 71 hotels in 10 countries across the Middle East.
A landmark deal reached in July curbs Iran's nuclear activities and provides for added inspections in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, charges denied by Tehran.
Iran hopes to increase tourist arrivals to 20 million from the current 4.5 million over the next 10 years. Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, said during the signing ceremony that the country hopes to generate $25-30 billion dollars a year from tourism by 2025.
"In the future there will be an opportunity for companies from all countries, including Americans, to enter Iran's tourism market, complying with our laws and regulations, which are good ones in terms of foreign investment," he said.
Iran, which has 17 UNESCO world heritage sites, aims to offer incentives to triple the number of four and five star hotels.
Iran and France have a long history of economic cooperation, and France's foreign minister and several French business people have visited Iran since the signing of the nuclear deal.
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