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 Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Salih Wal­ad­bagi

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.

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