Posted on July 9, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Tourism, Travel
Iraqi Arab tourists at the border gate with Kurdistan, Sulaimani
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— Just over 108,000 tourists have visited Iraq’s Kurdistan Region for Ramadan holidays so far this year, a significant rise from previous years’ declining numbers, according to the Tourist Board which monitors and regulates the industry in Kurdistan Region.
Officials are confident the spike will continue even after the holidays as many of the travelers take direct flights which are now available to destinations in the Kurdistan Region for the first time.
“We have signed detailed contracts with tourist firms in other parts of Iraq according to which the flow of vacationers should continue even after holidays,” said Mawlawi Jabar, head of the board, and added that most of the travelers came from central and south Iraq.
The end of the fasting month of Ramadan is usually celebrated with a weeklong holiday of festivities in most Muslim nations. The Kurdistan Region attracted thousands of sightseers from neighboring countries in previous years but the war with Islamic State (ISIS) and the stagnation of the Kurdish economy have deterred a large number of foreign tourists from visiting.
In 2015 as the Region went through severe economic crises and internal political turmoil, just 30,000 tourists chose to come to Kurdish destinations in Iraq, the board’s data shows.
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.
Authorities have also said they 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.
“We have signed deals with tourist firms in Iraq and Iran to arrange group travels to the Region which make the whole process much easier,” said Aras Ahmed from the tourist board in Sulaimani. Ahmed said further assistance offered by the security personnel at Kurdish checkpoints has been helpful to steadily attract more holidaymakers to cooler areas in mountainous regions of Kurdistan.