Hotel Chain has Big Plans for Iraq

By John Lee.

Abu Dhabi's Cristal Group, which plans to open its first Baghdad hotel, the Cristal Grand Ishtar, at the start of May, says it wants to expand beyond Baghdad to Erbil, Karbala, Basra and Suleimanya in the next two years.

Referring to Baghdad and most of the country outside the Kurdistan region, Peter Blackburn, president and chief executive of Cristal Group, said:

"It is definitely not a [family] destination ... Baghdad and Iraq have major plans to improve infrastructure and that is bringing in the business travellers."

According to a report from The National, the Cristal Group predicts 40 per cent occupancy for its first year of operations, with daily room rates in the hotel of between $190 and $250.

It has spent $50 million refurbishing an existing hotel property, which it recently purchased. It expects to spend another $4m to open a seafood restaurant, a gym and a spa in the 307-room facility.

Cristal Group has also signed two deals in Erbil; the $13m Cristal Hotel Erbil is set to open in October, while the slightly larger Cristal Grand Erbil should open next year at a cost of $25m.

Cristal expects to open a hotel in Basra within a year, Mr Blackburn said. Facilities in Suleimanya and another in Karbala are also planned.

(Source: The National)

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