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Iraq’s potential growing
March 2011 299

EUROMONITOR International, in its WTM Global Trends Report 2010, highlighted Iraq as a fast emerging tourism destination in the Middle East. Iraq’s tourism industry has been supported by regional economic growth as the majority of business and religious tourists visiting the country are from the GCC and broader Middle East. Additionally, Gulf investors are piling into Iraq, driving up business tourism and contributing to the tourism revival of post-war Iraq.

“Iraq’s tourism future looks bright driven by business travel demand. Some 700 tourism accommodation units are expected to spring up in the next four years including big names such as Rotana and Millennium and Copthorne,” said Euromonitor International head of global travel and tourism research Caroline Bremner.

According to Euromonitor, a third of projects planned are already under way including a number of new hotel openings to cater for business and leisure tourism. “Major international airlines including Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have also taken the decision to begin flying to the destination once more,” Bremmer said.

In 2009, the country witnessed 1.3 million religious tourists, mainly from Iran. However, business visitors are also increasing with renewed interest from Gulf investors contributing to the 58 per cent rise in business tourism last year.

International travel agencies including Sharaf Travel (UAE) and Terre Entière (France) set up offices in Iraq early this year, while Safir Hotels and Resorts have also opened a 340-room property in Karbala.

“By 2014, 700 hotels are expected to be open. Rotana opened the Erbil Rotana last year and has further plans to open its Arjaan and Centro brands,” Bremner said. “Rotana in Baghdad is scheduled for 2012 and, the five-star Divan Erbil Park Hotel and Le Royal Park Hotel will open in Erbil in 2011.”

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