ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region welcomed over 130,000 tourists during 2018 New Year celebrations, Kurdistan's Board of Tourism said on Thursday.
Nader Rusti, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Region’s Board of Tourism, said in a statement that 136,000 tourists visited the Region to celebrate the New Year as well as participate in various sporting activities in the snowy, mountainous areas.
The statistics were for the period from Dec. 25 to 30, 2018. Compared to the same time last year, the number of tourists nearly tripled, Rusti stated, noting that the number of visitors in December 2017 was about 52,000.
The spokesperson said most of the visitors came from central and southern Iraq, adding that destinations such as hotels, motels, and resorts were crowded with tourists.
“If the average tourist spent at least $200 in the Kurdistan Region’s markets, then based on that estimate, the Region has received about $27 million,” Rusti said.
Despite being in a region surrounded by war and instability, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region is a popular tourist destination for many people from Iraqi provinces and other cities in the Middle East due to its safety and religious tolerance.
Kurdistan is known to be a diverse region where different ethnicities and faiths coexist without fear of persecution or discrimination.
Moreover, during the height of the Islamic State war in Iraq and Syria, many people fled their homes in central and southern parts of Iraq to seek refuge in Kurdistan.
Iraq’s summer heat, which can top 50 degrees Celsius in mid-day, especially in the south of the country, also encourages people to travel north to cooler areas and family-friendly tourist destinations in the semi-autonomous region.
In October, the Head of the Kurdistan Region’s Board of Tourism said a record number of tourists (1,310,000) had flocked to the region since the start of 2018.
Many Iraqis visit Kurdistan during the three major holidays which are the Kurdish New Year, known as Newroz, and the Islamic feasts of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.