Tourism to develop into a source of national revenue
Around four million people from across the world are expected to visit Kurdistan, according to Tourism Board’s estimations.
The Kurdistan Region’s Tourism General Board has allocated 68 billion IQD to implement 77 tourism projects across the region. The board is now trying hard to develop tourist attractions, and turn the attention of tourists from across the world toward Kurdistan.
Nadir Rosti, The Kurdistan Region Tourism General Board's spokesperson, in an exclusive interview told The Kurdish Globe that the board has allocated an amount of 30 billion IQD to put 47 projects into operation across the region for 2013.
He also explained that there are more 30 projects, with an allocated amount of 27 billion IQD, which the board has been working on them since 2011.
Regarding the types of the projects, Rosti clarified that the projects are varied and included revitalization, cosmetics and protecting archeological projects, as part of the tourist attractions. "Constructing a specialized center for training and developing the skills of the tourist guides is also a significant project that the board established last year," Rosti said.
‘Tourism master plan’
Three years ago, the board in a very vital step decided to set a five-year-long tour- ism master plan for all the three Kurdish provinces of the region. It started from 2010 and will be finished at the end of 2015.
Austrian and Lebanese companies have been working on making the Region’s tourist master plan since 2010. They placed the current attractions on the plan, and working to set a comprehensive plan for the future.
According to Rosti, there are more than 3, 500 places in Kurdistan which are identified by the government as archeological places. "Around 10 foreign universities from different countries are now investigating several historic archeological places across the region. Working on some of the archeological sites is now accomplished, and are ready to welcome people, and some more will be completed in the future.”
According to the master plan, four million people from across the world should visit Kurdistan in the last year of the plan. "We are planning to increase the number of the hotel rooms to, at least, 25, 000 at the end of 2015."
At least US$1 billion and 500 million have been thus far invested in tourism sector, and the board is going to encourage foreign and domestic companies in or- der to actively invest in the field and boost the invested capital up to US$6 billion in 2015.
Spokesperson of the board additionally said: "In keeping with our strategies, we are intended for employing, at least, 40, 000 people at the end of 2015." The investment of foreign companies in Kurdistan has led to a pool of opportunities for fresh graduates.
In many countries across the world, tourism is a major source for national revenue. But in Kurdistan tourism has not been so far a vital factor to raise the annual national revenue. Now it makes around three percent of the total national revenue, but the board is endeavoring hard to get the revenue to, at least, 15 percent in the coming years, Rosti explained.
In 2012, around 2, 217, 000 people from across the world visited the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq, and the rate is 30 percent higher than the previous year.
‘KRG’s efforts to develop tourism’
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has until now conducted 30 workshops and training courses for improving the level of the employers from both public and private tourism institutions.
"To put the projects into practice in an excellent manner, the board has inaugurated several directorates in the three major Kurdish province's suburbs such as Khanaqin, Shangar and Raniya."
‘Extending tourism relations’
To create a center of attention for tourists worldwide, the board endeavors to make its bilateral relations stronger with foreign consulates, diplomats and companies.
We have so far, Rosti says, visited several leading tourism countries such as Egypt, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey to introduce Kurdistan’s attractions to the countries, and to encourage them to promote their inhabitants to visit Kurdistan.
To accelerate the efforts to introduce Kurdistan's attraction to the world, the board has recently opened marketing department. The main objective of the department is to reach as much as people across the world through website, social media networks, adver- tisement and publications.
More than 65, 000 tourist posters have been printed in several different languages such as English, Persian, Arabic, Turkey and Kurdish. They will be distributed among those who enter Kurdistan boundary as well as foreign consulates, Rosti clarifies.
The publications include definition of the tourist attractions, contact numbers of the hotels and motels as well as the restaurants.
Tourists visit the Citadel of Erbil.