Last year was momentous for the global hospitality industry, and particularly for Marriott International. It was a year marked by expansion with our acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, making us the largest hotel company globally.
The completion of the acquisition enhances our position as the world’s leading hotel company. Our combined company now offers the broadest portfolio of brands in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, combining Starwood’s leading lifestyle brands and international footprint with Marriott’s strong presence in the luxury and select-service tiers, as well as the convention and resort segment.
This combination is also an opportunity to introduce key brands to newly emerging markets. In MEA, we are currently operating over 240 hotels, with over 52,000 rooms, in 30 countries after effectively doubling in size overnight (from 25,000 rooms). We went from nine operating brands in our region to 17 and we have a further 160 hotels in the pipeline, consisting of over 37,000 rooms by 2025.
By 2025 we will be in 38 countries across the Middle East and Africa, with around 400 hotels and well on our way to 100,000 rooms.
We signed new brands to come into our region, for example, EDITION Doha, a brand entry to Qatar and AC Hotels by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott Waterfront in Cape Town, where AC is a brand entry to the MEA region.
Our most notable openings in 2016 were Al Habtoor City and La Ville Hotel City Walk, Autograph Collection in Dubai, Marriott Hotel and Marriott Executive Apartments Downtown Abu Dhabi, Renaissance Ikeja in Nigeria and Kigali Marriott Hotel in Rwanda.
Across the MEA region, we have grown to over 41,000 associates (employees). We continue to focus on developing talent in the markets where we operate, and specifically we work towards increasing the nationals who are employed across our continent. We recently launched Tahseen, a one-of-a-kind programme designed especially for Arab nationals to provide them with the skills to fast-track their career in hospitality.
The programme is in partnership with Cornell University, Education for Employment and INJAZ Al Arab, which helped to complete the programme curriculum, making Tahseen truly a unique leadership training programme.
Looking ahead at 2017 across MEA, Africa has continued to, and will remain an important part of our growth strategy and a growing source market regionally and globally.
The continent’s rapid economic growth, its growing middle class and youth population, the expansion of international flights to and from the continent, and the over 850 million residents who call sub-Saharan Africa home, reinforce there are enormous opportunities that exist there.
With this in mind, we continue to expand and deepen our footprint within Africa throughout 2017, opening 14 new properties with 2,560 rooms.
GCC countries will equally remain important source markets regionally as many travellers opt to stay closer to home or travel domestically. The opening of the first-ever Courtyard by Marriott Riyadh Olaya in Q4 2016 is also indicative of the importance of and opportunity that exists in Saudi Arabia.
Across the UAE, we are the leading hotel company, and sometime during 2017, we are expecting to open our 50th hotel in the country.
Also linked to opportunities are those presented by emerging global and local trends across the travel and hospitality sectors and over the past few years we have seen a shift towards services, products and offers that appeal to millennials. Building upon this focus, we have rolled out a number of initiatives and programmes that, while focussing on millennials and tapping into growing trends, have set the company apart, much to the benefit of all of our guests.
Among the trends that we feel are important is the growing demand for authentic and local experiences as well as the increasing focus on technology across all aspects of the guest experience — prior to booking, during their stay and long after their they have checked out.
At Marriott International we continue to look at ways we and our portfolio of brands can facilitate, curate and offer personalised and authentic experiences to our guests.
Alex Kyriakidis, President, Middle East and Africa, Marriott InternationalFor all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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