Director General of Suleimaniya Tourism Yassin Faqe Saeed complained that the government is neglecting the tourism sector in Kurdistan and the allocated budget is too small for its development.
Saeed says the Kurdistan Regional Government has a five-year tourism plan, which "if implemented, the tourism sector becomes a main source of revenue for the Kurdistan Region and income for its people."
"This year, we don't have any projects at our directorate general, except for one project, which is an extension of a project that was supposed to be implemented last year, but we could not finish the tendering process," explained Saeed.
The project is to beautify the Azmar and Goizha resorts, which is now in the phase of tendering.
The official said all the places included in the tourism master plan have been set forth as tourist sites in the General Master Plan of Suleimaniya, but their details are still in the tourism master plan.
KRG Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism is planning to design a regional tourism master plan, which is supposed to be implemented in the near future.
According to Saeed, among the obstacles facing the tourism sector in the Region is the lack of a specific, modern law for the sector. He considers this the biggest obstacle.
"We don't have a tourism law that could be used by the tourism directorates to stimulate the tourist projects and allocate plots of land to the private sector for the purpose of implementing various tourist projects."
Last year, Erbil hosted a conference about the tourism sector in the Region, which discussed tourism in detail and drafted the five-year strategic tourism plan.
"This plan can be successful if the recommendations of the conference are followed, including the legislation of tourism law and empowering the Tourism Board in Kurdistan," Saeed explained in an interview with The Kurdish Globe.
Although Saeed has high hopes for the future of tourism in the Region, and believes it can become a source of revenue for KRG, he's disappointed to see it has been mostly ignored.
Noting the tourism director is an affiliate of the Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism, Saeed said it does not matter whether there is an independent tourism ministry, a directorate general within another ministry, an independent board or a commission -- nit does not matter as long as it is active and has power and authority.
"The board that currently exists can make great strides in developing tourism in Kurdistan if we have a budget," stated Saeed. "Until now, not enough investment has been made in this sector and this sector has been limited to constructing hotels and motels, while tourism is much wider than this and we can invest in our vast archaeological sites and the natural beauty the majority of our country has."