Vinci signed up to enlarge and run two major airports in Iran

France’s concessions and construction giant, Vinci, is on course to redevelop and operate two major airports in Iran following the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani used a state visit to France last week to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Vinci on the concession for airports in Mashhad and Isfahan, Iran’s second and third largest cities.

Vinci said the MOU should lead to concessions to renovate, enlarge and operate the airports in 2016.

Rouhani agreed a number of major deals while in France, including a $24bn contract to buy 118 Airbus planes.

Tourism in Iran increased by more than 35% in 2014

Iran’s major cities are separated by hostile deserts and high mountains, and the lifting of sanctions last month is expected to unleash huge pent-up demand for inter-city travel by both rail and air.

The airport at Mashhad, in Iran’s northeast, recorded 8.2 million passengers in 2014. The city is a holy site that attracts more than 20 million pilgrims a year.

The Isfahan airport, with 2.6 million passengers in 2014, serves Iran’s third largest city, the capital of the Persian empire in the 16th and 17th centuries, renowned for its heritage.

Vinci said tourism in Iran increased by more than 35% in 2014.

Photograph: Allāhverdi Khan Bridge, known also as Si-o-seh pol, is one of 11 bridges in historic Isfahan and a famous example of Safavid bridge design (Reza Haji-pour/Wikimedia Commons)

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