The Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotels said it would develop a $55 million five-star property in Arbil in Iraq's Kurdish region.
Rotana, which has 25 hotels across the Middle East, will compete for a growing hospitality business with the Erbil International Hotel, the city's only other five-star property, where a standard twin room costs around $300 a night.
“This is part of our strategic aim to have a property located in every key city in the Middle East,” Selim El-Zyr, president of Rotana Hotels, said in a statement.
The Rotana's Arbil property is owned by Lebanese holding company Malia and will have 205 rooms.
The news follows a planned portfolio total of 60 properties, including new hotels in India and Pakistan, the company’s chief operating officer, Imad Elias, told TTN in an earlier interview.
“These 60 properties will be ready by 2010. We are looking at two or three more brands in the future,” he said. “We have had several meetings with developers and landlords and things are looking positive. We are also launching our new brand of hotels, so we are very positive about this,” he added.
Rotana currently has 25 properties up and running. “Since we went all the way to Sudan, and have been received very well, we realized that we are able to expand our expertise and capabilities to other markets. India and Pakistan are two areas we have a lot of interest in and we will be concentrating on, as both are under-supplied,” he said.
The group’s entry into Iraq follows moves by the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government to encourage investors to develop Arbil's hotel infrastructure and turn the city into an entry point to Iraq for foreign businesses.
The city's international airport handled about 170,000 passengers in 2006 and the regional government is building a new airport to handle 1.5 million, according to the London-based Kurdistan Development Corporation.
Austrian Airlines became the first European carrier to resume scheduled flights to Iraq last year when it began twice-weekly services to Arbil from Vienna.