Nov. 2, 2016


Dr. Ebrahim Salami

Iran

Dr. Ebrahim Salami

Managing Director, Tourism Holding of Social Security Organization (HEGTA)

TBY talks to Dr. Ebrahim Salami, Managing Director of Tourism Holding of Social Security Organization (HEGTA), on health tourism in Iran, building accommodation, and working with international firms.

BIO

Dr. Ebrahim 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, the 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.

What are HEGTA's capabilities to contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Iran?

HEGTA is the biggest tourism holding in Iran and is part of the Social Security Organization, the biggest non-governmental company in the country with 300 companies under its control. HEGTA was established two years ago and has seven subsidiaries, some of which have 50 years of experience in the tourism industry. One of them is Homa Hotels Group, the oldest hotel chain in Iran with five five-star hotels across the country. We also have shares of the Iran Touring & Tourism Investment Company (ITTIC), which is the largest hotel chain in Iran with 64 hotels. We are one of the biggest tourism construction companies, with about 2,000 tourism apartments constructed across Iran. HEGTA also owns RAJA Rail Transportation Company, which manages 70% of passenger railway travel in Iran, accounting for 30 million people per annum.

How do you assess the potential of Iran to become a health tourism hub in the region?

As part of the Social Security Organization, which plays a key role in the healthcare sector in Iran, we have plans to expand and develop facilities for health tourism, where currently we have 400 clinics and 70 hospitals available to provide services. We started our programs to promote health tourism in Iran in neighboring countries like Azerbaijan. We have the knowledge and facilities according to Western standards, plus surgery and operation costs are low compared to other countries. Although this is a new sector in Iran and we are one of the first companies that started working on this issue, looking at the level of Iranian doctors and the interest coming from Iraq, Turkey, and Western Asian countries, we aim to facilitate health tourism growth in Iran.

How is HEGTA renovating the hotel infrastructure to adapt to international standards?

Over the last 40 years, Iran has not constructed many new hotels. According to a European study, we need more than 700 four- and five-star hotels to achieve our goal of 25 million tourists. In this sense, HEGTA will construct 100 of these hotels in 31 provinces across the country. We introduced a project called “100 hotels, 100 businesses," where we invite national and international companies to start cooperating with us. We are organizing conferences to welcome foreign investors into the hotel industry. Our mission is to conduct the most important projects in the Iranian tourism industry for the next five years. The shortage of proper hospitality facilities in the main cities of Iran is the main roadblock for the growth of tourism; for example, more than 70% of the travel requests to Isfahan are rejected every day, as we do not have enough accommodation, which also affects the travel tours.

How important is to develop the transport sector to facilitate the growth of tourism?

Air transportation is the main way for international tourists to travel to Iran. We should take important decisions to develop the aviation industry, and I was the first to state that Iran should purchase 400 planes for developing tourism. HEGTA has done many studies nationally and internationally to develop this issue and the next step is to develop our own airline, Tamin Air. Along with Istanbul and Dubai, Tehran could be a transportation hub in the region.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

The next thing that we will do is renovate and construct four- and five-star hotels in cooperation with Accor Group, as we are in the phase of signing the contract. We have many meetings with international hotel groups, investors, and constructors and received proposals for cooperation from numerous companies from throughout the globe and are about to start cooperating with them. Over the coming months, we will start to sign joint ventures with companies we find, which could be the gateway for developing the tourism industry in Iran.