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Wed 27 Feb 2013 12:33 PM

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Marriott CEO says $3.5bn of MidEast, Africa hotels in pipeline

Operator of The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott brands says targeting new properties in Saudi Arabia

Marriott CEO says $3.5bn of MidEast, Africa hotels in pipeline
Marriott Hotels International.

Marriott International,
operator of The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott brands, has US$3.5bn worth of real
estate currently under construction in the Middle East and Africa, its
president and CEO told Arabian Business.

The US-based hotelier, which
operates 3,800 properties in over 74 countries, is in talks with several investors
to open new hotels in Saudi Arabia and will continue to grow its presence in
the UAE, said Arne Sorenson.  

“We have 42 [properties]
open and 49 signed and in the pipeline for the Middle East and Africa. When we
look across the region we see Dubai, the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], the rest of
the emirates and probably Nigeria as being the most significant growth
markets,” he said.

Marriott, which currently
operates seven hotels in Saudi Arabia including The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh,
expects to open a “few dozen” in the kingdom as the number of religious
tourists continues to grow.

“I think we will, in the
next ten years, open a few dozen hotels in Saudi. We see that economy growing
well, the population growth is significant, the government is investing in
infrastructure including hotels… so Saudi Arabia will be a pretty exciting
market in the next few years,” said Sorenson

“Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca will
probably be the three most significant [cities for growth]. We have had
conversations with three or four existing and potential partners about specific
hotels,” he added.

Marriott is ramping up its
expansion in the Middle East and Africa and plans to recruit more than 12,000
staff in the region over the next five years, its regional president and
managing director said last year. 

The operator said it has
12,000 rooms in the development pipeline, valued at US$3.5bn, in the Middle
East and Africa. Dubai, where the firm recently opened its 804-room JW Marriott
Marquis hotel, will also be an area of significant growth for Marriott, said

“[Dubai], which is already
one of the world’s most compelling destinations, is a third of the size of
Orlando and Las Vegas each with about 135,000-150,000 hotel rooms. Dubai’s
growth will continue for many years ahead and we hope that Marriott grows with
Dubai,” he said.

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