Tourism potential 'phenomenal' for wartorn Basra

Basra's potential as a tourist destination is "quite phenomenal", offering everything from historic sites to bird watching, according to Britain's Consul General in southern Iraq.



The city was once known as the "Venice of the East", but today it is still emerging from the effects of decades of neglect under Saddam Hussein, a series of wars and a bloody insurgency.



But British Consul General Nigel Haywood says it now sees itself as a future rival to Dubai - albeit with much more to offer.



He said: "The tourism potential for Basra is actually quite phenomenal. It's just not there yet."



Mr Haywood cited the example of a bird watcher he met at a party while he was back home in the village of Corfe Castle in Dorset.



The ornithologist enthused about the Basra warbler and the fact that the province is on major bird migration routes, leading the Consul General to wonder whether British RSPB members might one day flock to southern Iraq.



Basra already has one five-star hotel nearing completion and Iranian investors are proposing to build a second.



Mr Haywood said: "It sees its future as a major cosmopolitan trading city on one of the key transport routes from East to West...



"(Dubai) is the direction of travel that Basra would like to take - except that it would see itself as having much more than Dubai."



But he added: "I think it's going to be a long time before people come out here for beach holidays.



"The city itself has the potential to look absolutely stunning, but there's a long way to go."



Basra was on the itinerary of a small group of adventurous Western tourists - among them five Britons - who visited Iraq earlier this month in the first trip of its kind since the 2003 invasion.



Mr Haywood has seen the security situation in the city improve dramatically since he arrived in April 2008.



But he is not keen to encourage other British tourists to visit Iraq in the immediate future.



He said: "Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice remains what it says on our website, which is: Don't come here unless your travel is essential.



"It's still arguably a risky activity, we still have people held hostage here. That always has to be borne in mind.



"While investors are likely to be able to put in place good security arrangements for their visitors, individual tourists are less likely to."



Mr Haywood is not expecting a rush of UK holiday makers to arrive in Iraq, and anticipates that the British consulate in Basra will become focused primarily on promoting business ties.



"Consulates abroad are there for the protection of British citizens, although increasingly if you look at the way our consulates operate, much of the work is promotion of trade and investment," he said.



"That's the kind of consulate I would expect to see here in the future."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
art
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?