ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Some 250 companies hailing 20 countries kicked off the four-day Middle East Tourism Expo in Erbil on Sunday.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Minister of Municipalities and Tourism Newroz Mawlood Amin, and Iraqi Minister of Culture and Tourism Abdulameer al-Hamdani inaugurated the event.
KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani hoped for the exhibition to encourage companies to invest in the Kurdistan Region and to attract tourists.
“I want to reassure all parties that the KRG will do whatever is necessary within the framework of its reform program to eliminate shortages and will create better conditions for investment in all sectors step by step,” he said.
He described the people of the Kurdistan Region as interested in “life, happiness and peace.”
“People who come to Kurdistan should feel safe and at home. Beloved brothers and sisters coming from any Iraqi city to the Kurdistan Region should feel respected, and it is a pleasure to have them visiting Kurdistan,” Barzani said.
Disputes since the events of October 2017 have restricted travel between the Kurdistan Region and elsewhere in Iraq.
“Employees and officers at border crossings and airports should reflect the culture of coexistence, peace and forgiveness of the Kurdistani nation,” Barzani said.
“I call on the security establishment and all other relevant departments of the Kurdistan Regional Government always to be helpful at border crossings and airports,” he added.
Barzani expressed relations are improving between the KRG and Iraqi federal government.
“We hope the improvement of relations between Erbil and Baghdad is another factor encouraging investors to invest in the Kurdistan Region,” Barzani said.
Still, Erbil will continue to try to resolve outstanding issues.
“We have hope in the future of relations between us and Baghdad and want to resolve all our problems with the Iraqi federal government within the framework of the constitution step by step,” Barzani said.
Barzani claimed if it were not for the economic crisis, the KRG would have implemented a large tourism program.
Hamdani said Iraq wants to unify the law of “historical heritages between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
He added that hundr of thousands of people from central and southern Iraq visit the Kurdistan Region, and people from Kurdistan also should visit Kufa, Basra, Babil and sacred sites.
The companies are from 10 Arab and five European countries, Iran, Turkey, and some southeastern Asia countries are participating in the event. It was last held in 2017.
Various panels will discuss the importance of tourism and the Kurdistan Region to glean knowledge from the experience of the attending countries. The exhibition will continue until Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
According to figures from Kurdistan Region tourism body, 76,000 tourists came to the Kurdistan Region in the two days before the Kurdish new year, Newroz, on March 21 last year reaching 234,000 by the end of the month.
Update: 12:02 p.m.