Iraq is poised to be a future tourism hotspot reveals the WTM Global Trends Report.
The report, in association with Euromonitor International, shows Iraqi tourism is growing fast with increased airline and hotel capacity following the country’s successful attendance at World Travel Market 2009 – its first visit to a travel and tourism trade event for 10 years.
The country is to invest in its tourism infrastructure following the end of the war in 2003 and began the tourism regeneration process last year and the positioning of Iraq on the world tourism map again.
More than a third of projects planned are already underway 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.
Last year visitors to Iraq totalled 1.3 million with religious tourists, mainly from Iran, accounting for the large part. However, business visitors are also increasing with renewed interest from Gulf investors contributing to the 58% rise in business tourism last year.
International travel agencies including Sharaf Travel (UAE) and Terre Entière (France) set up 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.
Future hotel openings include Rotana, which is to open its first hotel in Erbil before the end of 2010 with additional expansion plans for its Arjaan and Centro brands. Rotana in Baghdad is scheduled for 2012.
Furthermore, the five-star Divan Erbil Park Hotel and Le Royal Park Hotel will open in Erbil in 2011.
Euromonitor International Head of Global Travel and Tourism Research Caroline Bremner said: “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.”
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