Erbil remedy to develop Iraqi tourism

The Life: Erbil is positioning itself as the place to do business in Iraq.

The pace of life is relaxed in Erbil. Lee Hoagland / The National.
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ERBIL // Erbil is fast developing as the gateway to the rest of Iraq.

Q&A: Is Erbil a good place to do business in Iraq?

Last Updated: May 16, 2011

Is Erbil safe? As Kurdistan has its own government, Erbil has remained relatively stable and sheltered from the conflict and terrorist attacks further south in Iraq. But areas including Kirkuk and the Turkish and Iranian borders are considered unsafe. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to Baghdad.

Which airlines fly into Erbil? From the UAE, Etihad and flydubai offer flights between Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively to Erbil. Lufthansa also flies to Erbil.

Where can I conduct my meetings? The lobbies of the recently-opened Erbil Rotana and the Erbil International Hotel, commonly referred to as the "Sheraton", are two of the most common meeting points in the city. The five-star Rotana is located near the airport, while the Erbil International Hotel is situated in town.

Where's a good place to relax at the end of the day? The Ankawa area is a laid-back suburb of Erbil. It is a Christian area with several churches, and a number of small restaurants and bars, and cafes serving Turkish coffee and shisha.  It's a short taxi ride from town. Taxis are reasonably priced and readily available. The Iraqi dinar are the official currency, but US dollars are widely accepted around the city.

Modern buildings are springing up around the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and international names are moving in.

But the area at the foot of the ancient Citadel is still the centre of everyday life. Erbil has an array of small shops and a large bazaar, selling goods including trinkets and mobile phones.

Erbil also feels very safe. The pace of life is relaxed and locals are extremely welcoming to foreigners.

Companies that already have a presence in the city include Ernst & Young and Standard Chartered. Other companies, including international hotel brands, are heading to the city.

Agriculture and energy are the main industries driving investment and development in Kurdistan. As a result, infrastructure and amenities are developing rapidly.

Construction is taking place all around the city. Power cuts are less frequent than they once were but it is still common to be plunged into sudden darkness when sitting in a small cafe or restaurant.

Several modern shopping centres are under development and plans to open a Carrefour supermarket in the city is the cause of much anticipation among locals.

A couple of new modern malls have opened recently, including Family Mall, where international brands including Ecco, Timberland and Samsonite can be found, along with a small indoor skating rink and an outdoor amusement park. Another shopping centre in Erbil is the Majidi Mall, which also has a selection of international brands. These malls are becoming increasingly popular places for the locals to hang out. More airlines are flying into the city and a new airport has opened, with the increase in air capacity expected to facilitate further growth.

The quality of hotels available is also fast improving as more business travellers head to Erbil.

Top 5: Hotels in Erbil

1 Erbil Rotana.

2 Sun Hills hotel.

3 Erbil International Hotel.

4 Motel Panda.

5 Hotel Monaco Palace.

The Erbil Rotana opened in December and Millennium & Copthorne has recently taken over the management of the Erbil International Hotel.

A multimillion-dollar refurbishment of the property is planned.

The Quote: "We have stability. We have security. Companies should come here and set up. We have good infrastructure." Omer Fattah Hussain, the former deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government.