Destinations Africa

Marriott makes a $3.5 billion bet on hotels in Africa and the Middle East

Mar 04, 2013 12:01 am

Skift Take

Dubai has been consistently attractive to hotel investments, but Saudi Arabia is the hot destination on the market as wealth, tourism, and business deals flood to the kingdom in the wake of Arab Spring.

— Jason Clampet

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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 Sorenson.

“[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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