March 23, 2021 | tourism

With Iraq lockdown, tourism improves in the Kurdistan Region

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Tourism in the Kurdistan Region is trickling in once again after the sector was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with Iraqis in areas controlled by the federal government traveling north to escape lockdowns.

“In the past three to four days, around 34,000 tourists entered the city of Erbil, and we are expecting that number to go up because today at 6 am in south and central Iraq the lockdown was lifted,” Nariman Fazil, director of Media in Erbil tourism, told Rudaw’s Rozhan Abubakir on Monday, the day after the Newroz holiday.

Iraq in February announced a partial night curfew three days a week; Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM, after cases of the virus dramatically surged.

Despite the slight improvement, Fazil noted that tourism from the start of the year is still 50% less than what it was in the same months in years prior to the pandemic, adding that between 93 to 95 percent are from south and central Iraq.

“At the beginning of the year, there was good tourist movement,” said Fazil, noting that a lot of “winter tourists” visited the Region’s snow-covered areas.

“Since the beginning of this year, around 200,000 tourists have visited Erbil city,” he added.

Between mid-February to mid-August last year, tourism was largely shut down in the Kurdistan Region. All provinces were under complete lockdown during the Newroz and Eid al-Fitr holidays, hitting the tourism sector hard.

In 2019, the Region saw 243,000 tourists during the three day Newroz holiday, and 250,000 during Eid al-Fitr. Eighty percent of them came from Iraq’s central and southern cities, and the remaining 20 percent from Iran and other countries, according to data Rudaw has received from the Region’s tourism board.

Rezhin Rauf, Head of Tourism in Dukan, said on Monday morning that according to informal data collected up to Sunday evening, “around 27,000 vehicles entered Dukan and its surrounding areas, and around 81,000 tourists and citizens visited the area.”

Amal Jalal, head of the environment board in the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw on Sunday that more than 10,000 tourists visited Sulaimani city on Sunday, the first day of Newroz.


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