Sunny, the first-ever cruise ship to dock at Kish Island in nearly 40 years, is scheduled to make its maiden voyage today.
Carrying 400 passengers and crew members, the ocean liner is expected to leave Kish in the evening and arrive at Qeshm on Thursday morning.
“It’ll be an unforgettable night for all those aboard,” Pejman Bahrami, the head of Marine Transportation and Ports Affairs at Qeshm Free Zone Organization, was quoted as saying by Qeshm.ir.
The Swedish-made cruise ship arrived at Kish in late March, making it the first Iran-owned ocean liner to touch the waters of the Persian Gulf since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
According to Ali Asghar Mounesan, chief executive of Kish Free Zone Organization, the ship’s primary route is between Kish and Qeshm, but it will soon expand to include other islands in the region.
“The cruise will operate a route to Dubai as well,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Sunny is a 176-meter-long, 23-meter-wide liner with seven floors, 130 cabins and 417 beds. It has a variety of amenities, including a swimming pool, sauna, a restaurant, two movie theaters, a library, a conference hall, a cafe and playroom for children.
The ship can carry up to 250 passenger vehicles. Officials claim that developing marine tourism is a top priority of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization in the new Iranian year that started on March 21.
While several plans have been put forward for tourism development in Caspian Sea in the north, experts believe that the potential of southern seas, namely the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, is largely overlooked.
Nevertheless, measures have been taken to kickstart marine tourism in the south, initiated by the launch of a route linking Qeshm to Khasab in Oman.
Another project aims to turn Hendurabi Island (near Kish) into a car-free “ecological paradise”. An airport, port and hotel have already been built.
Qeshm, which is the largest Iranian island in the Persian Gulf, saw a whopping 55% rise in the number of marine tourists visiting in the last Iranian year (March 2016-17) compared with a year before, drawing some 3.7 million people.
Overall, more than 7.4 million people traveled via sea to and from Qeshm last year.
Officials claim Iran’s coastal regions have the potential to attract 3 million foreign visitors a year. Development of marine tourism can help the country meet its ambitious target of attracting 20 million annual tourists by 2025.
Over 70% of tourism development plans in the sixth five-year development plan (2017-22) are related to marine tourism.
Despite the fact that turning coastal cities into marine tourism hubs has ostensibly been a government priority, the sector is only responsible for 1% of national employment and production.