Iraqi tourism industry battles on

Iraq’s tourism industry is battling on in the face of adversity and is actually thriving in niche markets, according to Basil Ahmed Al Douri, regional manager, Iraqi Airways. “We still have tourists coming to holy places like An Najaf and Karbala. Pilgrims come from Iran mainly, but we also see visitors from other Islamic countries like India and Pakistan,” he told ATN.

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By  Joseph Mortimer Published  July 5, 2006

Iraq’s tourism industry is battling on in the face of adversity and is actually thriving in niche markets, according to Basil Ahmed Al Douri, regional manager, Iraqi Airways. “We still have tourists coming to holy places like An Najaf and Karbala. Pilgrims come from Iran mainly, but we also see visitors from other Islamic countries like India and Pakistan,” he told ATN. The airline is also keeping afloat after re-launching its services between Dubai and several Iraqi destinations. It now boasts five flights a week to the capital Baghdad, two to Basra, one to Irbil and another to Sulaymānīyah, both of which are in the north of Iraq. The airline also operates services bewteen Baghdad and other Middle Eastern destinations, including daily flights to Ammam, four flights a week to Damascus, and three weekly flights to Tehran, Cairo, and Istanbul. “[However], there is little outbound tourism today, not like before 1990 when we had people travelling from Iraq to destinations all over the world,” said Al Douri. “We need to achieve peace in Iraq and then things can turn back to the way they were.” He added that more than 400 travel agents in Baghdad were struggling to stay afloat as they competed for existing custom and waited patiently for the day when international tourism can resume. Iraqi Airways’ international services ceased in 1990 due to UN sanctions imposed at the outbreak of the first Gulf War, and international flights remained grounded until 2004, when a service to Amman was reintroduced.

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