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Despite IS threat, Iraqi Kurdistan tries to lure tourists

After instability brought about by IS nearly destroyed tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan, the government still hopes to benefit from years of investment in the sector.

Until the beginning of 2014, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) fledgling tourism industry was growing at an impressive pace. Domestic and international investment was on the rise, and the region’s capital, Erbil, was celebrating its status as the 2014 Capital of Arab Tourism. However, come February, the Islamic State (IS) made rapid advances to the east and shocked the region by arriving a mere 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Erbil, prompting travelers and tour companies to cancel their trips. Despite a number of coalition military successes since then, the looming threat of IS — together with the consequent humanitarian crisis — continues to stifle the development of tourism in Kurdistan. So what does 2016 hold for a tourism industry in a region that for almost two years has had drastically fewer tourists?

A sharp decline

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