Iran’s first cruise ship since the 1979 Islamic revolution completed its maiden revenue-earning voyage on Thursday, docking in the Gulf resort island of Qeshm, a port official said.
The Swedish-built Sunny carried more than 200 passengers on the 127-kilometre (79 mile) voyage from Kish, Iran’s other main resort island.
The nine-storey ship is 176 metres long by 23 metres wide, and is planned to carry up to 1,600 passengers and 200 vehicles between the two islands on four- to seven-day cruises.
It features two cinemas, restaurants, a swimming pool and a conference hall, the head of Qeshm’s maritime transport and port affairs, Pejman Bahrami said.
“We hope that the first cruise journey between Kish and Qeshm leads to a boost in tourism for these islands, increasing passengers and preventing millions of dollars being spent abroad,” the Qeshm free zone organisation’s website quoted Bahrami as saying.
Despite its white sand beaches, Iran cannot compete with other Gulf destinations like Dubai, due to Islamic restrictions such as bans on alcohol and dancing.
Since the lifting of international sanctions under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani has made tourism a priority for rebuilding Iran’s economy.
Visitor numbers have increased thanks to the partial thaw in Iran’s international relations, rising from 2.2 million in 2009 to 5.2 million in 2015.
The government has plans for the construction of 300 new hotels over the next five years in a bid to improve its currently low-quality tourist accommodation.