Monday, 26 March 2012, 07:20 GMT
170,000 tourists visit Kurdistan for Newroz

Newroz celebrants hold a badminton match at a picnic outside Erbil./ GLOBE PHOTO/ Safin Hamed

The Kurdish Globe

Safety, nature and resorts big draw to foreigners

Resorts flourish with crowds over four days for Newroz festivities.

The tourism sector in the Kurdistan Region witnessed a noticeable boom during the last four days of Newroz when more than 170,000 tourists visited the resorts located in the region. Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Kurdistan Tourism Board, Sabir Nasri, said 2.5 million tourists are expected to visit Kurdistan until the end of 2012.

Cars lined up at Kurdistan Region's official borders as people waited for permission to enter just a few days ahead of the Newroz feast. Thousands of Kurdish people alongside tourists from other countries flocked to Kurdistan resorts to celebrate the Newroz festivity. Most vacationers came from cities in southern Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Europe.

Abbas Ibrahim, 25, from Baghdad, and his family enjoyed the sights at Dukan resort. "It's beautiful weather," Abbas said as he dried off with a towel after swimming. He and his family are repeat visitors to the region's resort area. "Whenever we get a chance, we pack our bags and drive to Kurdistan Region; we are familiar with the beautiful nature and resorts."

Jabar Amin, from Baghdad, was on vacation with his entire family. "Kurdistan is the best option to flee the violence and the horrific atmosphere in Baghdad, even for a short while," he said, remarking on the wave of attacks that struck his town before they departed to the region. "This is the only stable part of Iraq in which people can feel safe, which is why we usually come here; besides, the nature is beautiful."

Many tourists camped outside, as most of the hotels were booked already. In Suleimaniya Province, 40 Iranian families had to stay in the parks.

"We set a five-year plan to revive the tourism sector in Kurdistan Region; the point is to attract more foreign visitors," Nasri said when speaking to Kurdish TV stations. He mentioned that, in comparison to last year, the number of tourists increased over threefold over last year's approximate number of 50,000 tourists visiting for Newroz.