More hotel brands look to expand in Iraq27 Mar, 2013 By: Jena Tesse Fox
Last year, we noted that several hotel companies seemed keen on expanding in Iraq. The trend does not seem to be slowing: Indeed, as the political situation in the country progresses beyond an American presence, international businesses are looking to stake a claim in the still-growing economy.
The National, for example is reporting that several international hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton and InterContinental Hotels, are targeting the "stable and oil-rich Kurdistan region," with several openings slated over the next two years. The region's tourism general board has allocated 30 billion Iraqi dinars (US$25,795,500) to implement 47 projects this year. The Cristal Group is scheduled to open its first Baghdad property, Cristal Grand Ishtar, on May 1 close to the Green Zone where the international presence is still concentrated. The group has spent $50 million refurbishing an existing hotel property and expects to spend another $4 million to open a seafood restaurant, a gym and a spa in the 307-room facility. The Group predicts 40 percent occupancy for its first year of operations, with daily room rates in the hotel of between US$190 (Dh697) to $250.
Cristal Group has also signed two deals in Erbil: The $13 million Cristal Hotel Erbil is set to open in October, while the slightly larger Cristal Grand Erbil should open next year at a cost of $25 million.
Hotelier Middle East notes that Hilton has signed a management agreement with Kurdonia Company for Tourism & Hospitality Ltd., owned fully by Hiwa Rauf Company, for its third hotel in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, Iraq.
The new build, 223-room DoubleTree by Hilton Sulaymaniyah is expected to open early 2015 and marks Hilton's debut Kurdistan's second largest city, after Erbil, Sulaymaniyah.
The group has two other properties in the pipeline for Iraq, the Double Tree Suites by Hilton Erbil expected to open before the year end and Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa scheduled to open in 2016.
“The Iraq Kurdistan region is attracting increasing numbers of international travellers which is fuelling demand for quality hotel accommodation, particularly in gateway cities like Sulaymaniyah," said Hilton Worldwide, Middle East & Africa president Rudi Jagersbacher.
Iraq, according to The National, saw 260,000 tourists last year, up from 237,000 the previous year. It expects to have 287,000 tourists this year, rising by 30,000 arrivals each year until 2015. The growth would remain focused in the Kurdistan region as indicated by the international chains moving there.
Euromonitor International forecasts religious tourism to grow at about 10 per cent a year until 2015 if the situation remains stable. The top cities for visitors remain Erbil, Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Najaf.
It is worth noting that most of the visitors to the Iraqi capital are business travelers seeking government contracts aimed at rebuilding the country—which raises the questions of what kind of tourism the country will see when things become stable, and how hotel development will change once the major brands have a stronger presence in the cities and outlying regions.Topic : Iraq, Hotels in Iraq, Hilton
External Source : Hotelier Middle East, The National
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