Dr. Gholamheidar Ebrahim Bay Salami is the Managing Director and Vice Chairman of HEGTA. He is also the Senior Advisor to the President and a Member of the Supreme Council of the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO). Previously, Dr. Salami was a Parliament Member during the fifth and sixth terms of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Advisor to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Founder and Chairman of the Iranian Tourism Scientific Association (ITSA). He holds a PhD in sociology of development from Tehran University and is the author of two books.
HEGTA was established to increase cooperation among its
subsidiaries. How do you pursue this goal?
HEGTA is the biggest tourism holding in Iran and consists of seven companies that are all leaders in their field. RAJA Rail Transportation Company, the Homa Hotel Group, the Abadgaran Iran Tourism & Welfare Complex, Anzali Dehkadeh Saheli Residential Complex, the Social Security Refah Gostar Company, Iran Touring and Tourism Investment Company, and Tamin International Travel Tourist Services Company have been working together, and because of the synergy between these companies, they have been working more efficiently. For example, we host the people who travel with RAJA Rail Transportation Company in our hotels all over the country. The revenue of these companies has increased since the establishment of HEGTA, and it has helped us to attract more customers and guests. HEGTA as a brand is developing both in Iran and abroad. Other companies have more trust in our subsidiaries because they are attached to the HEGTA brand. The activities of our seven affiliated companies are clearer and more integrated so that they can play a more important role in the tourism sector and the Iranian economy.
How well is Iran on track in achieving the goal of 20 million inbound tourists by 2025?
The government is working hard to prepare the infrastructure to achieve this goal. After many studies, the 100 Hotels, 100 Businesses plan was created to increase the quality and quantity of Iran's hospitality infrastructure. The plan involves the construction of 100 hotels in the 31 provinces across the country and entails comprehensive decision-making. Approximately 250 projects have been introduced so that potential investors can choose which may be of interest to them. For some projects, among others in Isfahan and Hamadan, investors have already started to gain the necessary licenses and permissions. The 100 Hotels, 100 Businesses scheme has made the whole world aware that we want to develop the tourism sector in Iran. We aim for the construction of four- and five-star hotels and some three-star hotels in smaller cities. We used to develop plans based on investor demand, but we changed to developing plans to advertise them and attract investors' attention.
How has the 100 Hotels, 100 Businesses initiative been received by investors?
We have received many good offers from well-known foreign investors, especially following the International Tourism Conference. At the moment we are investigating these offers and working on them. With the 100 Hotels, 100 Businesses scheme, HEGTA wants to establish mutual investment projects with either foreign or local investors. These people know that HEGTA is a trustworthy and secure partner for investment projects. Foreign investors can also obtain interesting fiscal incentives, such as tax exemptions from five to 13 years. We see many local investors who are ready to work in a joint venture with international investors. We aim to ensure that tourism is seen as the number-one investment opportunity in Iran. HEGTA is positive about partnerships with local investors too as they appreciate the opportunity that the tourism industry offers. We decided to develop and modernize the tourism sector in Iran and are preparing ourselves from an administrative, banking, and regulatory point of view to facilitate this.
What is your outlook for 2017?
We hope that the strategies that we have implemented in railways, transportation, and hotels will reap their benefits in 2017. One new development that we have not announced anywhere yet is that we will move into medical and health tourism in 2017. One of HEGTA's companies will work together with the private sector to accomplish this. The Social Security Organization already manages 400 clinics and 70 hospitals. The hospitals and skilled doctors in the private sector have shown a lot of interest in cooperation in this sector and we are excited to start this new partnership.