Hoteliers eye Erbil for continuing Iraq growth
Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, is the hottest area in the Middle East for investment, both owners and operators have said.
Experts at AHIC said that due to the new airport opening, as well as investment in infrastructure, they are focussing on expanding in Kurdistan over other destinations, such as cities in Saudi Arabia and North African destinations like Algeria.
Stephen Lari, principal, The Claremont Group, said: “You get out onto the street and immediately you see the attention and resources put into the system and you get an idea that it’s functioning – certainly not perfectly – but much better than the west of Iraq.”
He added: “A lot of the money the government has spent from the oil revenue, opposed to spending on their own offices, put it into other areas and today you have a a budget of US $12-14 billion that a lot of people think will be more like $50 billion in 5-6 years. That’s a lot of budget resources for the 3.5 million people in the region.”
Rami Moukarzel, director development, EMEA, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, added that the group was looking at entering the area “very soon”. “Some others that left a long time ago are coming back in and looking to invest,” he added. “Because of the safety factor, a lot of the West are looking to come back. The natural evolution would be to bring in mixed use – hotels and offices. Everyone you speak to has a positivity about the market.”
Nenad Pacek, co-founder, CEEMEA Business Group, and president, Global Success Advisors, also advised of investments in the region, stating that the economy has been growing “about 10% every year”.