There’s some disagreement though as to whether this can help Karbala’s economy. Some of the local hotel owners don’t think it will. They believe the decrease in Iranians will cause economic hardship in the area. Partially this is because, they explain, visitors from the Gulf and from Asian countries tend to travel only at certain times of the year. Their numbers remain small compared to numbers of religious tourists from Iran who arrive all year round. And Karbala’s business owners are predicting disaster and Tareq al-Khikani, the Chairman of the Economic Commission on Karbala’s council, has even asked for help from Baghdad, calling for tax cuts that would encourage tourism and regulations stipulating that deals should be done in US dollars from now on.
“Karbala hasn’t seen such a drop in Iranian tourist numbers since 2003 [when the US-led invasion of Iraq took place],” hotel owner, Hussein al-Anbari, told NIQASH. “Very soon, the city will be facing an economic crisis.”
“Our hotels don’t receive government funding,” al-Anbari continued. “We pay for fuel and we pay daily expenses whether there are guests staying or not. And soon we will be forced to start laying people off because we’ll be unable to pay wages.”