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WTM makes bold prediction about Iraq tourism

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LONDON (eTN) – Are you ready for Iraq tourism? Well, if the folks at World Travel Market and Euromonitor are to be believed, the war-torn country is “poised to be a future tourism hotspot.”

LONDON (eTN) – Are you ready for Iraq tourism? Well, if the folks at World Travel Market and Euromonitor are to be believed, the war-torn country is “poised to be a future tourism hotspot.”

Euromonitor International in its WTM Global Trends Report shows “Iraqi tourism is growing fast with increased airline and hotel capacity following the country’s successful attendance at World Travel Market 2009 – its first visit to a travel and tourism trade event for 10 years.”

“Iraq’s decision to bring a delegation to World Travel Market last year was well timed for the destination’s tourism resurgence. The country offers a diverse mix of history, culture and unique experiences all paving the way for its place as an exciting up and coming destination,” WTM Chairman Fiona Jeffery said. “Iraq is exhibiting at WTM 2010 to seek further investment in its tourism industry giving it a great opportunity to become a future tourism hotspot.”

Euromonitor says Iraq is exhibiting at a major travel and tourism trade event at WTM 2010 as it looks to negotiate even more investment in its tourism infrastructure following the end of the war in 2003.

It was only last year that reports of a delegation of senior Iraqi officials travelled to WTM emerged. Visa issues settled, the Iraqi delegation apparently made it to the event wherein the tourism regeneration process and the positioning of Iraq on the world tourism map again began.

For her part, Euromonitor International Head of Global Travel and Tourism Research Caroline Bremner said: “Iraq’s tourism future looks bright driven by business travel demand. Some 700 tourism accommodation units are expected to spring up in the next four years including big names such as Rotana and Millennium and Copthorne.”

Euromonitor says more than a third of projects planned are already underway including a number of new hotel openings to cater for business and leisure tourism. “Major international airlines including Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have also taken the decision to begin flying to the destination once more.”

It is also being claimed that Iraq saw visitors to Iraq totalled 1.3 million with religious tourists in 2009, mainly from Iran, accounting for the large part.

Euromonoitor added, however, that business visitors are also increasing with renewed interest from Gulf investors contributing to the 58% rise in business tourism last year.

International travel agencies including Sharaf Travel (UAE) and Terre Entière (France) set up in Iraq early this year, while Safir Hotels and Resorts have also opened a 340-room property in Karbala.

So, what’s the future of Iraq tourism? By Euromonitor’s account, it is looking pretty bright. “By 2014, 700 hotels are expected to be open. Future hotel openings include Rotana, which is to open its first hotel in Erbil before the end of 2010 with additional expansion plans for its Arjaan and Centro brands. Rotana in Baghdad is scheduled for 2012. And, the five-star Divan Erbil Park Hotel and Le Royal Park Hotel will open in Erbil in 2011.”

What do Iraqi tourism officials have to say about all this? Watch out for eTN exclusive interview with Mr. Homond Yaqoobi, Chairman of the Iraq Tourism Board.