The improved relations between Erbil and Baghdad have allowed for tourists within Iraq to travel to the Kurdistan Region during the festive season.
Tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan has experienced a resurgence following the reopening of the Kirkuk to Erbil Road. The road, which had been closed for almost a year, was opened in time for the Eid al-Adha celebrations which took place between the 21st and 22nd August.
The road was closed by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in response to the Kurdistan Independence Referendum that was held on the 25th September 2017. The referendum, which was not legally binding, triggered minor clashes between the ISF and the Kurdish Peshmerga. During the clashes, the original bridge at Altun Kupri that connected Kirkuk with Erbil was destroyed. Its reconstruction had delayed the reopening of the road.
“The atmosphere is very good, it helps us change our mood,” said one of the tourists that visited Iraqi Kurdistan for Eid al-Adha. “We hope that all of our country becomes like this, from north to south. We hope that our conditions change for the better with positive efforts.”
Residents of Iraqi Kurdistan and the region’s tourists alike hope that the reopening of the Kirkuk to Erbil Road will be the first step of many towards the reconciliation of the Iraqi Central Government with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In addition, it is hoped that the resurgence in tourism to Iraqi Kurdistan will prompt the local authorities to further mitigate security measures to enable Iraqi citizens to move freely across the Kurdish border.
“The number of tourists declined greatly over the past year. However, with the opening of the road between Erbil and Kirkuk this year, we anticipate the revival of the [tourism] sector,” said Nariman Fadhir, the Head of the Tourism Media Office.
Tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan had reached an all-time high prior to the onslaught of ISIS in Iraq in 2014. Following ISIS’ nationwide defeat last December, the ISF, the Tourism Committee and the KRG, are working hard to ensure the safety of tourists from across Iraq and abroad in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. It is hoped that tourism can soon be restored to its pre-war levels.