Iraqi Kurdistan will face an overcapacity of hotel rooms between 2016 and 2019 as the growth in new hotels will outstrip demand, according to the general manager of Erbil Rotana Hotel Thomas Touma.

“Demand for rooms is not growing as fast as implementation of new properties and, in the 2016-19 period, there will be a drop in occupancy,” Touma told delegates at MEED’s Kurdistan Projects conference in Erbil on 8 June.

“By 2019, momentum will go up again and occupancy will be enough for all new entries to have sustainable operations,” he added.

The Erbil Rotana, which was completed three years ago, was one of the first international-class hotels to be built in Iraqi Kurdistan in the current development boom, but other major hotels are in the pipeline, including a recently announced JW Marriott in Erbil.

“Investors have to be careful and make studies about what is coming into market now,” said Touma.

He said the two biggest challenges in establishing an international hotel in Erbil have been the calibre of human capital and the importation of specialist goods.

“We hope tourism officials take this into consideration… [but] we have seen major improvements in the image of the city and the sector,” said Touma.