Maximising the opportunity of tourism to drive economic development, Iraq has been ranked second in the WTTC’s Performance Ranking, highlighting the country’s fast-growing travel and tourism industry – relatively speaking – due to growing stability in Iraq.

In the first six months of 2018, the number of international commercial aircraft using airports in Iraq increased by 140% – providing revenue of $26m – according to the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority.

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Travel and tourism represented a significant 8.4% of Iraq’s GDP in 2017 – creating 553,000 jobs – and is forecast to rise by 2.6% in 2018, according to the WTTC. Capital investment into the industry, which has grown steadily since 2008, is expected to reach its highest levels in more than a decade in 2018 - found the WTTC’s Economic Impact 2018 report on Iraq.

Tourism is a priority sectors in Iraq and there are 112 investment opportunity in this sector, as shown in the Iraq Investment Map 2018, says Miaad Hussein, head of Promotion Section at Iraq’s National Investment Commission.

“[There are many] opportunities [for] investment [in Iraq], from hotels to rehabilitation of waterways, mills and parks and the development of tourist cities. There’s a new tourist city development that has been announced at $1.6bn on Lake Dukan. The stability of the country is helping at the moment, as is the increase in oil price,” says Rochelle Turner, research director at WTTC.

Relative to other countries, the number of international tourists into Iraq is still small, increasing from about 1 million international visitors in 2013 to around 1.3 million this year, with most travellers coming from the Middle East, adds Ms Turner. However, this is impressive considering the on-and-off conflict in many parts of Iraq since arrival of the so-called Islamic State.

“Prewar, Iraq was quite a [tourist] site for its history and archeology…[Iraq’s growing tourism] is... helping to reestablish the country at least in some way [and] diversify away from oil,” says Ms Turner.

Following positive growth of greenfield foreign investment to Iraq between 2008 and 2014, inflows remain very low since 2015, according to fDi Markets. Rising political stability, improved oil prices, and growing tourism will help reverse this trend.