ERBIL — When Marriott International decided to enter the Iraqi hotel market, it partnered with Falcon Group, one of the largest business firms operating in the autonomous region of Kurdistan and throughout Iraq. Founded in 2004, Falcon Group consists of 18 companies with more than 5000 employees. It has emerged as one of the best security companies in Iraq, a leading oilfield services company in Iraqi Kurdistan and the vision is to become the best construction company and an agricultural powerhouse.
Marriott Hotels & Resorts is the third largest hotel and resort chain in the world. In 2011 it signed an agreement with Falcon Group‘s Empire World to develop a 200-unit upscale Marriott Hotel and Resort as part of Falcon Group‘s Empire Word project in Erbil, Iraq, as well as another 75-unit Marriott Executive Apartments property. The Erbil Marriott and the Marriott Executive Apartments Erbil will be Marriott International’s first entries to Iraq.
Empire World is a US $2.3 billion real estate residential, business office, and commercial development including 88 towers and 300 villas, being constructed in the heart of Erbil, Kurdistan. For Falcon Group chairman, Pershraw Majid Agha, the 5 Star JW Marriott luxury hotel, currently under construction, will be the “crown jewel” of the development. The Empire World is currenlty the largest real estate project in iraq.
“We are very excited to welcome Marriott to Empire World,” Peshraw Agha, chairman of the board of Falcon Group and The Empire World said back in 2011 when the partnership began. “Marriott is the first truly global hotel brand to recognize the potential of Iraq and establish not one but two properties in Iraqi Kurdistan. Empire World is an upscale, unique life, leisure and work destination and we think that the Erbil Marriott and the Marriott Executive Apartments Erbil are true jewels in the development. Erbil is the center of growth in the area and Marriott’s commitment to these projects clearly indicates that Erbil has arrived as an international city befitting such prestigious and quality brands.”
Designed for extended stay travelers, the 75-unit Marriott Executive Apartments Erbil will offer the convenience of a five-star, full-service hotel with the space, ambience and privacy of residential living. It will be located in a separate building adjacent to the hotel and, although its residents will be able to avail themselves of all the services and amenities offered by the Erbil Marriott, they will have their own leisure facilities, lobby and a residents’ lounge. The property will offer a mix of studios, and one- and two-bedroom units—each with a fully equipped kitchen, contemporary furnishings, state of the art connectivity, flat screen television, a washer-dryer, maid service, on-site storage and other services.
In April 2014, during the celebration of Falcon Group’s 10th year anniversary, Marriott announced that the 207-room, upscale Marriott Hotels & Resort in Erbil, Iraq has been upgraded and re-signed to a JW Marriott Hotel, while the 75-unit deluxe Marriott Executive Apartments property will be increased in size to 94 units.
Both properties are planned to open simultaneously in 2017. Marriott announced these two properties will mark Marriott International’s entry into Iraq.
Marriott also signed a MOU with Falcon Group to build a US$ 500 million Marriott Courtyard Hotel which will be located near Massif, just outside Erbil.
Alex Kyriakidis, President, Middle East & Africa of Marriott International, spoke of the Erbil Marriott hotels as a signal of growth in the region: “Marriott International’s fast growing footprint across the Middle East and Africa is a response to the huge potential we continue to observe in the region. At present the Gulf economies are experiencing strong GDP growth which translates into opportunity for our industry. Naturally, as a leading player in the hospitality industry, Marriott International is keen to convert these opportunities.”
“Erbil is an encouraging destination with a lot of economic and commercial opportunities, says Ed Fuller, president & managing director of international lodging for Marriott International. “The city serves as a gateway to a region with vast deposits of oil and gas, fertile soil for agriculture and antiquities. We are pleased to be working with Empire World on this prestigious project and look forward to doing what we can to help instill a sense of market confidence in terms of the area’s security. We are confident that this significant development will help the people of Erbil and Iraqi Kurdistan achieve their positive visions of the future.”
At an April 2014 event formalizing the upgrade of the Empire World Marriott hotel to the level of JW Marriott deluxe, Alex Kyriadidis offered “sincere thanks” on behalf of Marriott to Peshraw Majid Agha, chairman of Empire World and Falcon Group for the cooperative partnership relation among the teams from Marriott, Empire Group and Falcon Group. Addressing Peshraw Majid Agha personally, Kyriadidis said:
“Peshraw Majid Agha, thank you very much for your patience and commitment to Marriott International; it is truly appreciated. Here you have a vision: a vision to create a destination, not just a hotel. Imagine a destination of 45,000 square meters; imagine a luxurious JW Marriott Hotel for transient and short stay guests; imagine next to it Marriott Executive Apartments for the long stay guest who wish to stay for weeks, months here in Erbil working. Imagine also if you would a substantial conference facility, seven food and beverage outlets of different cuisines from around the world, a world renowned spa, residential complex; so what you have is a destination within Erbil. Now the economic activity that a project like this creates is huge. Both pre and post construction during operation in terms of job creation and crucially, crucially putting Erbil on the global hospitality map. This is what this project will do; this is what the vision of our partner is all about. Now it is taking it longer to get here but when you are planning in detail a destination, this is what it takes but you have seen it, it is above ground, we are up and running and we are very excited.”
Falcon Group and Empire Group chairman, Pershraw Majid Agha, said: “We have a strong relationship with Marriott due to the Empire World project. Our agreement with Marriott is to build the hotel but now we are very close to signing contracts for new hotel projects with Marriott in the region: in Erbil and in Sulaymaniyah, and then potentially in the future in Baghdad and Basra. Marriott Group has many different types of hotels; there are the JW Marriott hotels which are luxury hotels, there are the Ritz Carlton hotels which are also luxury hotels, there are the Marriott hotels which are 5 star hotels, there are Marriott Residence Inns, and Marriott Courtyard hotels. We are available to work with any of these brands.”
“Because of that Marriott brand decided to come into Kurdistan, knowing that Marriott is a part of our “Empire World” project, gives it additional credibility,” says Peshraw Majid Agha, “At a cost of over $2.3 billion, the project will encompass apartments, villas and office towers along other lifestyle requirements like malls and other facilities. All of these investments in Kurdistan are to enrich the area.”
Marriott International, Inc., is a leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, with reported revenues of nearly $13 billion in fiscal year 2013. Marriott International operates and manages hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts, which, in total, comprise more than 4,000 properties in 79 countries. There are approximately 330,000 employees at its headquarters and at its managed and franchised properties. Marriott is consistently recognized as a top employer and for its superior business operations, which it conducts based on five core values: “put people first, pursue excellence, embrace change, act with integrity, and serve our world.”