Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Fri September 30 2016

Could Religious Sites Boost Tourism in Iraq?

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | September 30, 2016

Could Religious Sites Boost Tourism in Iraq?

PHOTO: Samarra Mosque, Iraq. (photo courtesy Thinkstock) 

Mass tourism isn’t something that is going to be right around the corner for Iraq, but the country could take a page from Saudi Arabia’s playbook and aim to attract more religious tourism, according to the Al Monitor

Writer Adnan Abu Zeed noted that the country is seeing a steady increase in religious visitors — welcoming more than 1 million travelers visiting for religious purposes during the month of September. 

“The increase in visitors has sparked questions whether Iraq can find a way to improve the country's economy…indicators in August foreshadowed a gradual growth in tourism that focuses on religious and archaeological landmarks,” noted Abu Zeed. 

The head of the economics department at the Iraqi Al-Sabah newspaper, researcher and correspondent Hussein Thaghab, told Al-Monitor, “Saving religious tourism from the abyss of the financial crisis requires organizing the pillars of religious tourism in line with local and international interest. Millions of people visit religious shrines yearly, but those visits do not give back significant returns to the federal budget.”

It looks like the Iraqi government is paying attention. There is a road map in place to make Iraq a world-class tourist destination, and the country’s tourism committee has drafted a plan to develop religious tourism as part of the strategy — and the impact could be far reaching. 

READ MORE: How Much Does It Cost to Travel to Iraq and Afghanistan?  

“Iraq encompasses different religious sites for various Muslim and non-Muslim sects. Therefore, tourism is not restricted to Shiite shrines, unlike Saudi Arabia where tourism only targets Muslims,” Member of parliament Amer al-Faez said to Al-Monitor. 

To learn more about Iraq’s plans to build up its religious tourism, read on here

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