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Thu 6 Oct 2016 08:56 AM

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Marriott-Starwood deal will allow Dubai to host mega events, says global CEO

In the GCC, the new Marriott now has 84 hotels with 25,802 rooms

Marriott-Starwood deal will allow Dubai to host mega events, says global CEO

Marriott International's $13bn acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts has strengthened Dubai's position to compete for some of the world's biggest global events, the global CEO of now the world's largest hotelier has told Arabian Business.

Arne Sorenson said the close proximity of the 1,600 room-JW Marriott Marquis and a combined 1,600 rooms at the W, the Westin and St Regis hotels, formerly part of Starwood, would allow the company to accommodate some of the biggest world gatherings, such as financial or medical conferences, global product launches and customer events held by large international brands.

The benefits would extend to the entire Dubai economy, Sorenson said.

"We're talking about substantial pieces of business, where you can say, we can host your business in Dubai - there's great airlift, great centrality, especially for European people and Asian people meeting together," he said.

"There are relatively few places in the world where you can get a 3,000-4,000 room block right there. (Las) Vegas is one and Vegas does a lot of huge global meetings."

Las Vegas is the largest MICE market in the world, with 22,000 meetings and 5 million attendees in 2014, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). It has a total of 40 million visitors a year.

But Sorenson said Dubai has some advantages, particularly its geographical location and ease of entry.

"For a global group to sometimes get into the US is difficult," Sorenson said.

"So if Dubai says we're going to provide this great airlift and make it easier for people to enter Dubai, I think it makes them more competitive. It's not that they haven't been competitive - there are obviously  a lot of big hotels in Dubai and there are a lot of hotel rooms in Dubai but I think it's another strength."

Marriott's deal was finalised on September 23, making it the largest hotelier in the world according to the number of rooms. It now has 1.1 million rooms and 30 brands. In the GCC, the new Marriott now has 84 hotels with 25,802 rooms.

Sorenson said he did not expect any brand consolidation in the GCC, although he did not rule out re-branding a small number in the future.

The bigger company also would help the owners of the hotel properties managed by Marriott, he said.

That includes Dubai developer Khalaf Al Habtoor, who owns the newly opened W, Westin and St Regis hotels within Al Habtoor City.

"(With) economies of scale we should be able to drive not only the top line through a stronger proposition with our customers but we should be driving improved profitability at the margin level by offering some services more efficiently than we have been able to do with smaller platforms," Sorenson said, adding that both Marriott and former Starwood hotel owners had supported the acquisition.

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