• Marriott plans to open two hotels in Erbil in 2014.
• Swiss-Belhotel is opening close to the airport in Erbil later this year.
• Hilton Doubletree Suites is expected to open in Erbil by the end of next year.
easy. Gavin Jones is managing partner at Upper Quartile, an Edinburgh-based consultancy that operates in Iraq. He says: “There are a larger number of people who are going there now without training. People say they have worked in Sudan or Pakistan and think it will be OK.” But the training is just the beginning. Security for travellers in Iraq will be a buyer’s biggest concern – and the biggest cost. The three main business centres in Iraq are the capital Baghdad, oil-and-gas centre Basra in the south, and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north. All of them require high levels of security – but Iraqi Kurdistan is considered much safer than the rest of the country. Uta Dammann is programme manager for global management consultant Inspiriton Solutions. She is implementing a series of infrastructure, telecommunication and manufacturing projects in southern Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Dammann travels to Erbil frequently. “Kurdistan is the independent economic region to the north and a
visa is easily obtainable at the airport for EU and American citizens. Doing business there is no problem: you don’t need security [in the city] and it is relatively easy to move around – but in the mountains there is a high kidnapping risk.” Because of the security risks, the costs of doing business in Iraq are high. Dammann says: “You have to take out critical insurance and it
Security for travellers in Iraq will be a buyer’s biggest concern – and the biggest cost
needs to be a local company by law. The key question to ask is: what are their medical procedures? Ask to see these and what they cover, and if they act on FCO advice.”
In Baghdad, even transporting people from the hotel to the airport is a major operation. Having a security company in place is vital. Travel management companies (TMCs) use partners, such as International SOS and Control Risks; you can also hire private international security firms or local security firms
• Copthorne Hotel Baranan is opening in Sulaymaniyah this year. Millennium & Copthorne also plans to open properties in Basra and Baghdad.
The five-star Erbil Rotana is leading a wave of international hotel development in the city
– the latter can be imperative, as the political situation needs to be understood on a domestic level. Oil companies tend to keep security in-house, as one travel buyer explains: “We are sending people there on a monthly basis to all of the most dangerous areas, and our people stay on secure sites. We have a TMC which handles it and they have the procedures in place as well as a preferred airline we use.” Another travel buyer from the oil and gas sector says: “All planned travels must be approved by our country manager. Normally we use a specialised security company to organise arrival and ground transportation to high risk areas, where we do not already have an established organisation to take care of it.” Whatever the arrangement, there are huge differences in cost. Upper Quartile’s Jones explains: “If you go with local drivers it costs around US$300 dollars a day, but international companies with three vehicles and armed security guards will be US$3,500 to US$5,000 a day.” The costs of controlling these risks seem to be worth it: the Iraq Ministry of Oil has produced between 1.5 million and 2.5 million barrels of oil per day since 2004, and over the next 10 years expects to see this figure rise to between 6-10 million barrels per day. Shell, Lukoil, BP, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton and other major players are operating in Iraq. The country has oil reserves of an estimated 115 billion barrels and each barrel currently sells for around US$120. Upper Quartile’s Jones says: