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Iran's Top Hotels, Declining Posh Legacies of the Past

By Arash Momenian, Negin Shiraghai

Tehran, 10 September 2005 (CHN) -- Bequeathed by 1970s international brandy hotels, today Iranian five-star hotels are not good value for money and the rest are incapable of catering for all tastes.

Despite being priced as high as all five-star hotels in other countries, however, Iranian five-star hotels are hot favorite for most foreign tourists who come to visit the country.

Anyone who checks in these hotels using a non-Iranian passport should pay according to a tariff based on US currency (literally meaning that they should pay in dollars, cash!). Funnily enough in the fiscal reports of these hotels, they are all considered as foreign tourists. Although they fall into different categories of tourism like commercial and political tourism, but not necessarily all of them enter the country using a tourist visa.

One of the reasons why most of these people prefer to reside in five-star hotels is that they have insufficient information about Iranian hotels. Actually lack of information about other lodgings, especially in Tehran and other big cities like Isfahan and Shiraz, leads them to opt for either one of Esteghlal, Homa, Azadi, or Laleh hotels in Tehran, Aliquapu or Abbassi hotels in Isfahan, and Pars or Homa hotels in shiraz.

Unfortunately the same thing applies to travelers who use a tour service in their visit to Iran. Despite of knowing very little about Iranian hotels, some tourists have such set ideas about some particular hotels that travel agents need to painstakingly try to convince them to change their opinions.

However, when it comes to small towns wherein little choice they may have for lodging, all these travelers, who seemed to be a bit choosy, change their taste drastically and seem quite content with what they may get regardless of the quality.

Not being supposed to shoulder their own expenses is another reason why, despite the high costs, lots of foreigners still prefer to stay in posh hotels in Tehran. In fact most of the guests who check in these expensive hotels are either university professors on exchange programs, businessmen on commercial trips, or politicians and government officials on mission, whose expenses are covered either by the government or other institutes, so there is no reason for them to be worried.

But here comes another question: "do they offer good value for the money?" Actually, most of these five-star hotels were built before the Islamic Revolution in 1970s as branches of renowned international institutes and chain hotels like Continental, Hilton, Sheraton, Hyatt, etc. Though having been renamed and continuing their activities after revolution, these Iranian hotels have failed to maintain the same quality services they used to render before reincarnation.

While these retro-styled hotels see no incentive for any struggle to improve their long halted quality as they are all government run and as mentioned above, they have their own regular customers, some new lodgings have been established in recent years which resemble more to what one can find as five-star hotels in other countries. The presence of these newly built hotels has even urged the old famous hotels to enter the competition though gradually and reluctantly. The recently signed contract between Laleh (ex-Continental) and French Accord is an example of these wills.

Beside the group of tourists who contribute greatly to the lucrative business of classy hotels, there is a relative minority of tourists coming to Iran who are more experienced in traveling and thus dare to choose from a wider range of options including mid-range hotels and even budget lodgings near Toopkhaneh Square (Imam Khomeyni square). A large number of these tourists, who want to enjoy a better service, normally head in Tehran for some four-star hotels like Evin, Ferdowsi, Enghelab, and Simorgh, where they receive a better service considering what they pay.

Moreover, there are a number of tourists, especially from European countries, who endeavor to travel along the old Silk Road and in their way toward east they travel across Iran. Of course, because of the long journey laid ahead, they would rather be economical for their budget to sustain, and thus opt for small budget lodgings and Inns.

But a problem which they may face is insufficient information on Iranian hotels and lodgings, especially on budget ones, in travel guide books. Sometimes on their journey they pass through some small towns of the lodgings of which travel guide books do not even have any information and so the travelers of the Silk Road need to rely on advices given by locals.

Arab tourists, however, have totally a different taste for hotels and lodgings. Instead of looking for luxury in five-star hotels, Arab tourists prefer to reside in apartment hotels where they enjoy a much greater privacy and the larger place guarantees a more comfortable sojourn for them, who often bring their families along.

To cater for their taste, some new apartment hotels, like Melal Hotel, which just breathe luxury, are built, where one can lead a lavish lifestyle enjoying various services and facilities like swimming pool, Jacuzzi, gym, sauna, café, and upmarket restaurants for bundles of cash.

Renting private villas, which are evidently quite costly, is another favorite choice for Arab tourists, especially in Northern provinces. Having a semi-Mediterranean climate, the southern coastal strip of the Caspian Sea, north of Iran, is extremely attractive to Arab tourists in a way that they may even spend the whole summer with their families in private villas over there.

All in all, apart from the budget, for which a decent range of hotels and lodgings, especially in Tehran and other big cities, leave almost no difficulty for tourists to choose, in terms of services or at least quality services which are good value for money, Iranian hotels have a long way ahead

... Payvand News - 9/13/05 ... --

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