A street vendor displays items on a stall at a market at the bottom of the Irbil Citadel, Iraq.
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Billboards still read "Welcome to Irbil, 2014 Arab Tourism Capital," but most of the visitors Iraq's Kurdistan region welcomed last year were people made homeless by a jihadi offensive.It was supposed to be tourism's takeoff year but ISIS' June onslaught dashed those hopes overnight when it plunged Iraq into chaos.What was a growing $1 billion sector in 2013 came to a screeching halt when ISIS fighters took over large parts of Iraq north and west of Baghdad and moved within striking distance of Irbil.The autonomous three-province region has been spared most of the violence that tore Iraq apart but Kurdish peshmerga forces were mobilized en masse, transport was disrupted and the destination's image took a big hit.The oil-producing region had hoped to make tourism the second pillar of its economy.Karem said at least 72 hotels have closed down over the past six months.
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