Increase in revenues gives new hopes to Kurdish tourism industry

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— The slow but steady return of holidaymakers to the Kurdistan Region has nearly sextupled incomes from tourism in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2016, according to the Kurdish Ministry of Tourism which now plans to hold a grand conference in Erbil to attract more vacationers. 

According to the ministry, the number of travellers visiting the region has increased by around 60 percent since last year that has led to six-fold revenues for an industry which almost stagnated over the past three years following ISIS war in northern Iraq. 

“We had around 150 million dinars ($128,000) of revenues from tourism in the first three months of last year, but during the same period this year we have registered almost 850 million dinars ($730,000) of incomes,” said Tourism and Municipality Minister Newroz Mawlood who is confidant more vacationers will choose the cool temperatures of Kurdistan Region this year as the economy peaks and ISIS militants retreat. 

“One can feel that the city shops and markets are more crowded now. People buy and holidaymakers have, to some extent, made it back here,” Mawlood said. 

The ministry is now planning on holding a relatively large conference, inviting some 200 tourism firms both from Iraq and elsewhere in the world to attract the companies to invest in the region. 

Authorities have planned to invest millions in modern infrastructure and build hundreds of new tourist attractions across the region, which they hope will bring back their missing vacationers.

Kurdish authorities have planned to spend an estimated $100 million in the coming years to revive and develop an industry which many believe will be profitable in the long-run. 

The ministry has also said it will work to facilitate the entry of Iraqi visitors into the Kurdistan Region after recent tightening of check points for security reasons, which heavily limited the arrival of Iraqi travelers.

“Thanks God, we have the entire hotel full-booked now unlike the last year when we had much fewer quests,” said hotel manger Shahin Kanaan in Erbil whose quests usually come from central and southern parts of Iraq. 

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