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Some major U.S. hotels moving into Iraq

Nancy Trejos USA Today 12/14/2011 20:23
Some major U.S. hotels moving into Iraq - Iraq - hotel - Business

Some major U.S. hotel chains are planning to go into Iraq just as the last of U.S. troops are pulling out.

Best Western recently broke ground on two hotels in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan in the northern part of the country. Hilton Worldwide is set to open DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Erbil at the end of 2013. And Marriott International will open two properties there in 2014.

Hotel executives say they see an opportunity in northern Iraq, which is attracting so much foreign investment because of its oil and gas reserves that a new airport opened there last year.

The area is also considered relatively safe, having severed ties with Saddam Hussein after the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. As a result, it was spared the fighting that the capital, Baghdad, and other parts of the country endured from the 2003 war. Its scenic beauty and archaeological ruins also earned it a spot on National Geographic's "20 best trips of 2011."

"If you look at the strong demand that will come from business and leisure travelers, and that there's a shortage of supply of hotels … that makes this appealing to us," says David Kong, Best Western International president and CEO.

Kong says the company is considering deals for two other hotels in Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk, also in Iraqi Kurdistan.