12 October 09 The Straits Times
THE Singapore-owned hotel chain Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C) is embarking on an ambitious expansion drive in the Middle East, and will be the first international chain to open in Iraq.
Last week, it announced that it had signed three new management contracts with the conglomerate Faruk Group to open hotels in Sulemania, northern Iraq.
This will include a five-star Grand Millennium property and two four-star hotels under the Copthorne and Tara brands.
Mr Ali Lakhraim Al Zaabi, the president and chief executive officer of M&C in the Middle East and North Africa, said: 'We are very proud to be the first international hotel to put our footprint in Iraq. Middle Easterners are getting tired of the old names from the West and we are considered the new kid on the block from Asia who understands the region's culture and needs better.'
Aside from opening in Iraq, M&C Hotels is also eyeing further expansion in the Middle East such as in Saudi Arabia. It has signed a contract to open a new hotel in Mecca within the next three to four months.
Mr Ali said that M&C will be in all the prime locations in Saudi Arabia such as Mecca, Medina and Riyadh.
M&C is also in discussions with partners in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
The plan is to have as many as 100 hotels under the M&C brand in the Middle East by 2015.
M&C manages a total of 30 hotels in the Middle East, of which nine have already opened. The rest are under construction.