Holiday in Iraq anyone?

The chairman of Iraq's tourism board is in London this week, just in time for the World Travel Market - quite an optimistic fellow, then. Hammoud al-Yaqoubi is, in keeping with his visit, is very positive about Iraq's tourism future, suggesting: 'tourism will help regenerate Iraq,' and that security is only a 'minor problem'.

A soldier in Baghdad

A soldier in Baghdad

Iraq has, of course, a wealth of interesting places and attractions to recommend it, from Babylon and the Garden of Eden to Samarra and the city of Baghdad. Geoffrey Hann, head of Hinterland Travel (a company that has been running tours to the country for the last 30 years), even suggests that the relics of Sadaam's dictatorship are an appeal. Hann is an ardent supporter of holidays to Iraq and its currently offering tours to the country.

The problem, however, is twofold. One: how safe would a European or US visitor be in Iraq? The answer (given that the foreign office advise against all travel to Iraq) is not that safe. Two: Is it really appropriate to holiday in such a troubled, war torn country? Is it exploitation? Morbid curiousity? Or a real chance to educate people about history and politics?

There's (hopefully) no doubt that Iraq can grow to become a top holiday destination, just like Cambodia and Croatia before it, but, in the interests of saftey (and decency) al-Yaqoubi might want to hold fire on his invitation for the time being.

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