Tourism sector is close to collapse in Kurdistan Region: official

A general view of Ahmad Awa resort in Khurmal sub-district, 84 km east of Sulaimani governroate (File)

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SULAIMANI — Spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) General Board of Tourism Nadir Rustay said on Friday (August 14) that the local tourism sector will collapse if travel procedures are not fully normalized between the Kurdistan Region and central and southern Iraq.

In March, travel was restricted between the Kurdistan Region’s governorates and the rest of Iraq, which is a major point of origin for tourists along with Iran. While some travelers from the south have been able to enter Sulaimani province in recent weeks, Erbil and Duhok governorates remain closed off to most outsiders.

Saying that the measures have created opportunities for some industries, like local agriculture and factories, Rustay said in a post published on his official Facebook page that they have caused great damage to the tourism sector. He added that owners of restaurants, hotels, and resorts have borne the brunt of the impact.

“Regardless of whether the coronavirus pandemic persists and infections continue to occur, life is going to normalize with coronavirus present: flights are resuming, a great number of countries have opened their borders and crossings to tourists and started becoming accustomed to the coronavirus era,” he said.

He argued that “protective measures are continuously being improved and tightened,” which should enable the Kurdistan Region to reopen to tourists.

While the pandemic has surely had a grievous impact on the economy of the Region, including the tourism sector, Rustay’s comments come as the local outbreak is the in the process of significantly worsening.

This month so far 181 people have died from COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 6,526 people have become infected.

According to the health ministry, there have been 20,335 cases of coronavirus in the Kurdistan Region. An official tally of 11,207 patients has recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus infection, and 732 have died from it.

(NRT Digital Media)