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Marriott looks to sign 5k rooms in MEA this year.

In an interview with Hotelier Middle East, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson revealed that the company is looking to sign another 5000 rooms in the Middle East/ Africa region by the end of this year.

The company currently has 164 hotels operating in the region, with another 79 in the pipeline, meaning it projects growth of 50%.

"Obviously the development team in the region is looking at signing additional deals. This year I think we could sign something like 5000 more rooms so this could be 20 - 25 hotels," said Sorenson.

"We have lots of discussions underway and we're optimistic so we'll grow that 79 into a bigger number by this year's end."

The company recently announced The Ras Al Khaimah Marriott Resort, to be the brand's first property in the Emirate when it opens in 2019 with 300 rooms.

"We've looked forward to being in that market for some time and we want to welcome leisure travel, MICE business and group business," Sorenson said of the property, adding that further expansion within the UAE is a top priority for the region.

"We've got about 5000 rooms open in the Emirates, and our pipeline of signed deals is maybe about 3,000, but we're talking to partners about other projects.

"Obviously Dubai is the biggest market in the Emirates and Abu Dhabi is second but we'll continue to grow in both of those markets.

Sorenson said that brining new brands to the Emirates is also on the agenda, but there are no plans for the company's lifestyle brand Moxy at the moment.

"We're excited to be bringing some new brands here - we've got a Bulgari deal which will be a 2018 opening and we're working on Edition in Abu Dhabi which should open maybe next year.

"We don't have any Moxy's in the pipeline in MEA yet and that's something we'll have to continue to evaluate. We're very bullish on that brand globally."

An Edition hotel in Dubai is also being negotiated, however Sorenson could offer no further comment on plans for that property.

Having recently rolled out its Marriott Rewards loyalty programme at its Protea hotels in Africa, Sorenson comments "it's going well", and suggests the brand would work well in the Middle East.

"Protea is well known in Africa because of the airlines. I see people increasingly viewing the UAE as the crossroads to Africa.

" I think the Middle East is a really relevant part of what's happening in Africa and I think because of the familiarity of the brand it's the perfect opportunity to have Proteas in the Middle East."

Having introduced its Autograph Collection to the region with Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa Autograph Collection, Sorenson reveals that returns have been positive.

However, given the lack of luxury independent hotels in Dubai, he believes the emirate won't be suitable for the brand going forward.

"Dubai may not be the biggest target for Autograph collection but we'll find other cities in the Middle East for that collection that are maybe historic, but that we can deliver value to by having them as part of our system.

"The growth rates here are second to none. Our business in Asia today is bigger than the Middle East. The growth here is higher but we're also growing here. So I think these two markets will be the ones with the highest growth - number of hotel adds but also the percentage of growth."

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Publication:Hotelier Middle East
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:May 14, 2015
Words:587
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