By Courtney Trenwith
World’s biggest hotel operator says some competing brands in the region will need to be redefined for greater distinction
The boss of Marriott International has confirmed the world’s largest hotel operator will not cut any of its brands from GCC markets.
Marriott’s $13.6bn acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in September brought together more than 30 brands under the same umbrella, many of which had been direct competitors, raising the question on whether any would be made redundant.
“Obviously, some of those brands, many of them, were head to head competitors before. Now they’re part of the same platform so we need to calibrate them and [determine] the emphasis between some of them so we can continue to draw distinctions between them,” said Marriott International president and CEO Arne Sorenson.
“[But] we‘re not really seeing a compelling reason to try and force a change in the brand layout.”
The CEO was in Dubai to attend a meeting between the two general managers of Marriott and Starwood as they continue to forge a closer relationship and path the way for collaboration and streamlining.
He admitted he was “surprised” the deal was successful, after a late bid from China, which pushed up the ultimate price.
“I was a bit surprised that we prevailed at the end of the day,” Sorenson conceded.
The biggest deal in the hospitality industry doubled Marriott’s operations in the Middle East and Africa, from 25,000 rooms to 52,000 rooms.
Currently, 17 of the combined hotelier’s brands are represented in the region and Marriott’s Middle East and Africa president and managing director, Alex Kyriakidis, said there were plans for five more to be added in the next couple of years.
In October, Sorenson told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview that the merger would give Dubai greater impetus to host some of the world’s biggest gatherings, with 3,000-4,000 room bookings.
“You’ve got the Marriott Marquis with 1,600 rooms and then roughly 1,600 rooms combined between the Westin, the W and the St Regis across the canal - each with substantial food and beverage outlets, each with substantial meeting space,” he said.
“I think they’ll pitch jointly for bigger events, where 1,600 rooms might not be enough by itself. You’re talking about substantial pieces of business, where you can say, we can host your business in Dubai - there’s great airlift, great centrality, particularly for a global meeting.”
Kyriakidis said the combined Marriott had 85,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline (confirmed).
“We are looking at growing at a fair pace, 8,000-10,000 keys, per year. By 2020 … we are shooting for 150,0000 keys,” he said.