The number of tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region this year reached a record high, according to Mr. Mawlawi Jabar, Chairman of the General Board of Tourism.
In an interview with the Kurdistan Regional Government website, Mr. Jabar noted:
"In the first six months of 2018, 1.3 million tourists visited the Kurdistan Region, mostly from central and southern Iraq. During the 11-day Eid al-Adha holiday, there were 349,000 tourists, spending 140 billion dinars in the Region.
"In the first four months of 2018 there was a good influx of Iranian tourists visiting the Region. After the Iranian authorities imposed taxes on its citizens for traveling abroad, however, the number significantly decreased. Though smaller in numbers, tourists from other countries are also preferring to visit the Region.”
While neighboring countries offer lower costs to Iraqi tourists, the ratio of Iraqi tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region continues to rise.
Mr. Jabar added:
“A comprehensive tourism development strategy has been in place since 2014, but the ISIS war and financial crises restricted implementation of strategic plans. Since 2016, however, implementation has been gradually reactivated. For example, loans have been extended to small and medium tourism projects.
"The Board of Tourism has a special department for invigorating protection of the environment. To raise awareness, we are working to protect the environment through the media, publications and other awareness tools.''
Regarding private sector’s role in developing tourism, he said, “Part of the strategic plan is to support the essential role of the private sector. He said Kurdistan’s tourism companies have good relations with companies abroad and play an important role in attracting tourists.”
He said, “Tourism investment has rapidly grown in the Kurdistan Region and its effectiveness is illustrated by the rising number of visitors and revenue.”