Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group says it continues to watch Iran closely as the company waits for the right time to enter what executive vice-president Ellie Younes calls a “new frontier market”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) being held in Dubai on 27 April, Younes told MEED he has visited Tehran twice in the past six months to meet investors and government officials.

“Iran is a market we are watching closely, and once the sanctions have been lifted entirely we will surely be there,” said Younes.

He added that it is key for Iran to improve local legislations that often discourage foreign companies.

“Sanctions is one thing and after they are lifted companies will be lining up at the door. But the next step for the Iranians is to improve the ease of doing business”, said Younes.

In September last year, France’s Accor Hotels was the first international hotel group to announce it will operate in Iran. The firm has announced the opening of two hotels in Tehran. At the time the French group said in a statement that it will open an Ibis hotel and a Novotel branch near the capital’s international airport.

As Iran prepares for the lifting of sanctions, tourism is expected to be an important sector. Growth in tourism, along with increased traction in business activities, is expected to be among the major drivers for travel over the short-to-medium term. The country is aiming for 20 million tourists a year by 2025, up from current levels of about 5 million, according to the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organisation of Iran.