UNDP Iraq and USAID seek to revitalize tourism in the Kurdistan region

August 1, 2023

Erbil - In a milestone event aimed at reviving tourism in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Tourism to unveil the “Reform Roadmap”, a groundbreaking plan to revitalize tourism in the region.

“The path to economic resilience lies in diversification, and boosting tourism support to the most frequented region in Iraq is a great opportunity for the whole country to do just that.” Says Auke Lootsma, UNDP Iraq’s Resident Representative.

Economic resilience through diversification

KRI is the most popular travel destination within Iraq, as it is nestled in a part of the country that features lush greenery and picturesque mountains. In this area of the country, the tourism and hospitality sectors have emerged as one of the key drivers of economic growth and job creation in the region. 

“The Kurdistan region with its rich cultural heritage and stunning backdrops is the perfect place for diversification to unfold. UNDP, along with our partners, USAID and the KRI government, will continue to encourage and support this important initiative that will lead to sustainable tourism, economic growth and job creation,” said Auke Lootsma, UNDP Iraq Resident Representative.
The Reform Roadmap, developed with financial support from USAID, solidifies the two agencies’ unwavering commitment to improve tourism in the KRI, an area with immense untapped potential for tourism-led economic growth.

“Tourism has a special place in any society. It simultaneously helps communities preserve their cultural heritage and share this wealth and beauty with the outside world. The Iraqi Kurdistan Region receives millions of tourists every year. Through this USAID-funded roadmap, the U.S. government is supporting the Kurdistan Regional Government in its efforts to take a serious step toward developing this vital sector,” said Elise Jensen, USAID Mission Director in Iraq. “With the launch of this comprehensive roadmap for tourism sector development, the path laid that celebrates the region’s heritage and embraces sustainable practices. We are proud of our partnership with the UNDP and the Ministry of Tourism on this important initiative.” 

A roadmap to success

The “Reform Roadmap” identifies areas that are most important for a sustainable and successful tourism development in KRI. It focuses on recommendations with the biggest impact on the tourism industry, including tourism legislation, laws, and regulations; marketing; and developing tourism sites and products. 

The Roadmap provides guidance on how to stimulate private sector investment through different financing modalities such as public-private partnerships for the development of tourism sites and products. It underscores the necessity of tourism law, regulations, institutional structure and tourism business quality assessment criteria for the Kurdistan Region, taking into account the local legal context and authorities.

The Roadmap also includes a comparative study of the tourism sector legal framework to examine the institutional structure and quality assessment criteria from countries with well-established tourism industries, in this region and the European region, taking these best practices and applying it to this context.

“The Kurdistan Region enjoys a rich culture, heritage and beautiful nature, and has the potential to become a prime tourist destination in the Middle east. A vibrant tourism economy generates livelihood opportunities, particularly for the youth and women in the region. This Roadmap plays a vital role in that.” said Ms. Amal Jalal – Head of KRG Board of Tourism.

The launch of this pivotal roadmap marks a significant stride towards a more sustainable, professionalized, and profitable tourism industry in the Kurdistan Region and for the country as a whole.

For more information:

Mohammed Al-Bahbahanee, UNDP Iraq, Communications Specialist


Christine Cool, UNDP Iraq, Team Lead/Strategic Partnerships, Advocacy & Communications