Visitor numbers to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq are estimated to have increased by 31 per cent in 2013 to a total of 2.9 million, according to to US real estate group Colliers International.

The region attracted 2.2 million visitors in 2012 and 1.7 million visitors the year before, Selim el-Zein, head of hotel asset management, Middle East and North Africa (Mena) at Colliers International, told MEED’s Kurdistan Projects conference in Erbil on 8 June.

An estimated $2.4bn has been invested in tourism projects in Iraqi Kurdistan up until 2014. Out of the region’s three provinces, Erbil has been the largest recipient of investment, with $914m, while Suleimaniyah received $722m and Dohuk $703m.

By individual projects, there are 40 under way in Erbil, 12 in Suleimaniyah and 28 announced in Dohuk.

The biggest increase in visitor numbers has come from other regions of Iraq as Kurdistan leads the country in terms of stable development for tourists.

Visitors from other areas of the country totalled 1.98 million in 2013, compared with 450,000 in 2009, while international visitors rose to 583,000 from 133,000 in the same period.