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The three provinces that officially form the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan are designated as a location of refuge and safety. The Kurdistan region serves as a direct haven and a tourist attraction for many Iraqis who want to escape the perilous state that the rest of the country currently remains in. For the Iraqi people, natural beauty and historical sites are the hallmarks of the governorates of Arbīl, Duhok, and As-Sulaymāniyyah. 

The proliferation and the bourgeoning demand for tourism in the Kurdistan region can be viewed as an outcome of the stable security situation in Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) drive for commercial organisation. Huge investment has flooded into the tourism sector since 2006 and a total number of 40 licensed projects have been dedicated to the sector, mainly to handle greater increments in demands for new hotels and other services for foreign and national vacationers. 

The city of Arbīl, which is one of the most ancient and continuously inhabited cities in the world, appears to be at the forefront of the gentrification that is currently ongoing in the tourism market of northern Iraq. With the number of five star and International Hotels being established in the region there has never been a better time to invest in the tourism. The city of Erbil is home to the world oldest citadel, from the times when old empires used to use the citadel as a fortress now its undergoing a facelift all part of the KRG’s tourism drive in the region.

Sites of Historical and Natural beauty make ideal places for tourism related investment, completed projects such as Pank Tourism Complex in Rawanduz is a clear example of how the investment law has enabled the establishment of a modern tourist complex with a rollercoaster and amusement rides placed on a Gorge near the town of Rawanduz. The scenery is breathtaking like no other seen in the Middle East, taking in the snowy mountaintops in the winter and the green plains in the spring.

Potential Tourism projects are in the pipeline in the town of Shaqlawa, about 50 kilometers from the capital Erbil, lies at the base of Mount Safeen which is nearly 2,000 meters high at its peak a potential Investment Project has been developed, Safeen Master Plan will become a tourist complex with hotels, chalets and other activities spotted around the mountain creating an amazing hideaway for families and travelers looking for a tranquil break. Other proposed investment opportunities are Dukan city master plan and Erbil Green Belt master plan.

Traveling to the region has never been easier; to accommodate for the expansion of air travel in the region the KRG has just unraveled a $400 Million International Airport in Erbil to help capacitate for the high amount of human & cargo traffic entering and leaving the region. Last year alone 290,000 flew to Erbil International Airport, Airlines operating in the region have benefitted from this with Austrian Airlines calling their flights into Kurdistan as one of their most profitable routes.

Tourism has the potential to become a catalyst to economic development in the region; job opportunities have arisen from the tourism sector in recent years with the emergence of new hotels and complexes.

These include the current situation in the region. In 2008 GDP per head was amounted to around $4,500 compared to the rest of Iraq which is around $3,600, with 1.5% of GDP growth rate in 2007 to 4.3% in 2009, it is estimated to reach over 7% this year and around 8% next year with the economy booming, tourism is gradually becoming the forefront of investment in the region.