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Iraqi Kurdistan breaks out as an emerging tourism hotspot in a troubled region

Excerpt from Time

Jan 01, 2013 9:55 am

Skift Take

The regional/local tourist boom will help, though international tourism will still be some ways off, dependent on overcoming the image of being part of a troubled region.

— Rafat Ali

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Tom Blackwell  / Flickr.com

Qala Erbil, the citadel in the heart of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tom Blackwell / Flickr.com


Iraqi Kurdistan has come a long way very quickly. In 2007 it had just 106 hotels, and it now boasts more than 400. They’ve built a $400 million state-of-the-art airport in Erbil and two others across Kurdistan. Marriott is building a massive complex in Erbil called the Empire that will include a five-star hotel, a condo village and a go-cart track. Hilton, Kempinsky and Sheraton are also building hotels. In 2013, Kurdistan expects to bring in $1 billion in tourism revenues and hopes to quintuple that number in just two years. Erbil’s 2030 development plan calls for a wildlife safari park, a Grand Prix racetrack and a 36-hole golf course.

Still, Iraqi Kurdistan has a ways to go to becoming an international destination. “They’re doing well with regional tourism, Iraqis and Iranians, Gulf tourists…But as far as Western tourists go, they’re in their infancy. It’s still just the tip of the spear.”

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