September 30, 2020 | tourism

Duhok tourist sites welcome more than 12,000 visitors in two weeks

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Tourist sites in Duhok province have seen upwards of 12,000 tourists in the two weeks since holidaymakers were allowed in from other parts of Iraq, according to the provincial tourism board.

More than 12,000 tourists from other parts of Iraq have flocked to the province to escape the scorching temperatures in central and southern parts of the country, according to data Rudaw has received from a source at the Duhok board of tourism.

'We have come from Baghdad. We are here for cooler weather because the roads had been shut due to coronavirus,' Abbas Dulaimi, a tourist from Baghdad at the Ashawa resort in Amedi told Rudaw on Monday. 'We are thrilled that the roads have reopened, especially to Duhok.'

There are 825 tourist locations in Duhok province, according to the tourism board.

Entry to the province from areas under Iraqi federal control was granted on September 15, after six months of closure. Private vehicles are allowed to enter but not tour buses.

'Everything is beautiful here. Like any other country, everything here is well-organized and attractive,' said Amal Yousif, another tourist from Baghdad at the Ashawa resort.

'Tourist spots in Amedi are witnessing hustle and bustle after the reopening of the roads,' said Nazif Mohammed, head of Amedi’s tourism directorate, adding that they expect the number will increase in the coming days.

Resorts in Duhok province have been subject to some of the most long-running and stringent closures over the course of the pandemic, which reached the Kurdistan Region in March.

Resorts across the Kurdistan Region reopened to visitors from KRG-controlled areas on August 20.Both Erbil and Duhok provinces do not allow tour group visits from Iraqi provinces outside the Kurdistan Region, but one tourism official told Rudaw that this restriction is likely to be relaxed this week.

'The spread of the coronavirus has had a tremendous influence on our business,' said Matin Ibrahim, owner of a tourist site in Duhok city.

'It is important for us if the tourist groups are allowed in. This will help many people to return to their business,' Ibrahim added.

Health regulations and coronavirus preventative measures are implemented across all the tourist spots.

According to Duhok's tourism directorate, more than 500,000 tourists visited the province in 2019.

The decision for all tourism spots to be reopened came as KRG officials say that the coronavirus pandemic fears will no longer be a reason for Kurdistan Region tourist resorts to be shut.

“It will no longer be decided that resorts in the Kurdistan Region will close because we have all come to understand that we have to live with the virus and make our economy stronger,” Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) tourism board spokesperson Nadir Rusti said last month.

There is no available data on the economic losses Kurdistan Region tourism resorts have incurred because of the pandemic, or on the number of tourist trips taken in the Region for this year, Rusti said. However, tourist numbers have visibly plummeted, and pale in comparison to the 1.85 million Kurdistan Region tourist visits Rusti said were made between January and June of last year.

The Region's tourism sector mainly relies on Arab visitors from areas under federal Iraqi control. Each tourist spends roughly $300 per visit, Rusti said, providing income to tourism workers and the KRG.

To date, the Kurdistan Region has recorded over 45,000 coronavirus cases, according to KRG health ministry figures. More than 1,600 people have died of the virus by Monday afternoon.


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