The best opportunities in hotels and hospitality in Iraqi Kurdistan are now in the budget sector, the MEED Kurdistan Projects conference in Erbil was told on 8 June.

“Based on our original studies, it made very good sense to invest in five-star hotels,” Erbil Rotana hotel general manager Thomas Touma said. “Now, with the new market changes, budget hotels and three-star hotels make very good sense.”

Touma said domestic tourists cannot afford luxury hotels. “The domestic market requires budget properties more than four- or five-star hotels,” he said.

Head of Colliers International hotel asset management practice Selim el-Zein told the conference that the number of visitors from Iraq staying in hotels in the Kurdistan region is estimated to have risen to 2.3 million in 2013. This compares with 660,000 in 2009.