Starwood re-enters Iraq with Sheraton, Four Points
Firm returns to Iraq 20 years after war with 2 Erbil hotels open 2015
Starwood Hotels and Resorts has signed two new-build properties - a Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton - in Erbil, marking the firm's return to Iraq 20 years after it was forced to exit the country due to the Gulf War.
The group opened two hotels in Iraq in 1982, in Basra and Baghdad, that were closed following the onset of the Gulf War in 1990.
The 221-room, 39-suite Sheraton Erbil Hotel and the 250-room Four Points by Sheraton Erbil Hotel are both scheduled to open in 2015 in the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, Northern Iraq.
Starwood has partnered with two Erbil-based owners; BCD Co. for the Sheraton and Ranj Co and Helar Co for the Four Points property.
"We were there [in Iraq] 20 years ago and we had to leave, we’ve waited some time to find the right partners and right project to re-enter the country," Neil George, VP, acquisitions and development, MEA, Starwood told Hotelier Middle East.
"Erbil is the right place in Iraq to re-enter, it’s stable, safe, there are lots of economic incentives and lots going on. It’s a bit of a haven for economic development in Iraq so that’s our first point then we’ll grow elsewhere," added George.
George said the firm was confident Erbil was a stable environment for hotel development: "We had to wait until we got comfortable with the security situation and until we were able to reasonably reassure our guests of a safe experience. Erbil was a natural choice, it’s regarded safe. It hasn’t had a single incident in the last decade."
Both hotels are situated within 10 minutes drive from the Erbil International Airport.
"The great new modern airport is very important for us for the international travellers coming in. It's a high-quality airport with good air links coming through with Emirates flying there now, Etihad, Lufthansa..." George explained.
"There are quite a few projects, some of our international competitors are in there as well, there is an existing Rotana, so of course there’ll be competition and that’s expected - it’s a market everyone sees the potential in."
George said he expected that the majority of guests to the two hotels would be corporate.
The Sheraton includes a 720 sq m ballroom, a conference centre, four meeting rooms and a business centre including six private offices.