Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:6AM
EasyHotel is a super budget hotel chain based in London.
EasyHotel is a super budget hotel chain based in London.

Budget chain easyHotel has announced plans to open branches in Iran, expecting a deal for 500 rooms. 

The London-based group says its operations will be managed by a franchisee in Iran where local staff will run the facilities but easyHotel will not risk direct capital investment.

The expansion plan is expected to include new purpose-built hotels and conversions of existing hotels or office buildings.

EasyHotel Chief Executive Guy Parsons expects most of its customers to be Iranians and the company is not targeting a large growth in travel from Europe or Britain.

Since the lifting of sanctions on Iran, hotel groups from several countries have been pushing to boost their portfolios in the country which is being billed as the most lucrative emerging hospitality development market.

Iranian women look at the palace of King Darius of Achaemenids (522-486 BC) in the ancient Persian city of Persepolis near Shiraz in southern Iran on September 26, 2014. (Photo by AFP)

Europe’s largest hotel group Accor, UAE-based Rotana and Spain's Melia Hotels International have already moved into the country. Other chains from Germany, Greece, South Korea, Singapore and Turkey have negotiated possible expansion.

5-star Melia hotel in the Iranian city of Salman Shahr on the Caspian Sea

"There are a number of hotel companies that are looking to expand into Iran. We're looking to develop in the Middle East, and it made sense for us to take this opportunity," Parsons told Reuters.

"We're comfortable that now is the right time to go. But we're going to keep monitoring the situation and discussing it with the franchisee and developer in Iran," the news agency quoted him as saying.

Iran has an ambitious plan to attract 20 million tourists by 2025 and generate $30 billion of revenues a year.

Barin Hotel in Shemshak Ski Resort outside Tehran

The country is working to diversify its foreign exchange earnings away from petrodollars as the liability of the oil sector is beginning to dawn on the nation following years of sanctions and crude market volatility.

Visitor numbers have already boomed in recent years, rising from 2.2 million annually in 2009 to 5.2 million in 2015.

Arasbaran (Qaradag) mountains in northwestern Iran

Deputy Economy Minister Mohammad Khazaei has said Iran was offering a tax break of 13 years to international hoteliers.

"All economic activities related to... tourism will enjoy 100 percent tax holidays between five to 13 years depending on the region," he was quoted as saying in October 2016.

Iran has currently 1,100 hotels of which only 130 are in the four- or five-star category. Officials say the number of four- and five-star hotels must rise to 400 by 2025.