Undeterred

Iraqi travelers flock to Lebanon despite conflict fears

BAGHDAD – Despite daily reports of potential conflict in Lebanon, Iraqi tourists are showing a steady interest in visiting the country, according to travel agencies. While these companies advise against trips to the south, they report a rising number of flights from Iraqi airports to Rafic Hariri International Airport. This increase aligns with the upcoming religious pilgrimage season and extended holidays in some Iraqi governorates, which facilitate more outbound tourism.

The current tensions in Lebanon are marked by escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel. Recent months have seen a significant increase in hostilities, particularly after Hezbollah initiated cross-border strikes in response to the Israeli assault on Gaza. This has led to almost daily cross-border fire along the Israel-Lebanon border.

The preference for Lebanon among Iraqi tourists is primarily due to the friendly interactions with residents of Beirut and the Lebanese people overall. This hospitality is further enriched by concerts from major Arab artists such as Kadim Al Sahir and Amr Diab, who have recently performed there, and upcoming shows by Wael Jassar, Sherine Abdel Wahab, Tamer Hosny, Assala Nasri, and Mohamed Ramadan.

Bashar Al-Qaisi, owner of the Prime Journey travel agency, explained the popularity of destinations among Iraqi tourists to 964media: “Turkey remains the top destination for Iraqi tourists, followed by Iran due to lower costs, with Lebanon ranking third this year.” He noted a significant uptick in the number of Iraqis selecting Lebanon for their summer vacations, largely driven by the concert scene in Beirut.

Lebanon offers tourists access to various renowned historical sites, including Jeita Grotto, noted for its narrow passages and natural limestone formations. “Photography is strictly prohibited inside the grotto, making it an exciting experience etched in visitors’ memories,” Al-Qaisi added.

Travel packages from Iraq to Lebanon vary in price based on the choice of hotels, the number of days, destinations included, and special offers, starting from $525 per person. These packages typically cover flights, reception, farewell, hotel accommodations, breakfast, and sightseeing tours.

Al-Qaisi concluded with a word of caution for travelers: “While the scenic views and attractions draw tourists to Lebanon, we advise travelers to avoid southern governorates near Israel and to be cautious of potential fraud and scams common in any tourist destination.”

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