If there’s one thing we can say for sure, it’s that in the last 12 months, Alex Kyriakidis has been a busy, busy hotelier. In September of 2016, Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts was announced. Now the mega-operator controls 30 brands, with the expectation that in the UAE alone, it will have 20 trading by 2020.
Region-wide, Marriott International now operates more than 130 hotels across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with in excess of 41,000 rooms. It has more than 100 properties in the pipeline between now and 2026, which covers 25,000-plus rooms.
Kyriakidis tells Hotelier: “The completion of Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels in September 2016 enhanced our position as the world’s leading hotel company. With more than 6,100 hotels in 124 countries, we bring more choice, value, and access to our guests; greater financial benefits for our owners, franchisees, and shareholders; and exciting new opportunities for our associates and the communities where we live and work. We now have unquestionably the broadest portfolio of brands, the most comprehensive global footprint, and the most extensive loyalty programmes.”
He adds: “As a result of this mega merger we doubled in size in Middle East and Africa overnight, moving from 25,000 rooms to more than 53,000 rooms in 30 countries, and went from nine operating brands to 17.”
While working on the company’s Middle East and Africa (MEA) footprint of existing brands, Marriott is also gearing up to launch new ones for this region, including AC Hotels by Marriott, Bulgari, Edition, and Element.
It’s quite stunning to see the number of hotels opened in the last year and those signed under the Marriott umbrella. The world’s first St Regis-branded polo resort was launched in Dubai in March 2016 — the St Regis Dubai Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club. In June 2016, the W brand debuted in Dubai with the opening of W Dubai — Al Habtoor City, and the August opening of The Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City — the largest Westin hotel in MEA with more than 1,000 rooms — marked Dubai’s milestone of 100,000 hotel rooms in the city.
And the launches didn’t stop. The Aloft brand entered Saudi Arabia with a double whammy of openings in Riyadh and Dhahran, and debuted in Al Ain. Abu Dhabi saw the launch of Marriott Hotels and Marriott Executive Apartments, and Cairo got its first Westin with The Westin Cairo Golf Resort and Spa Katameya Dunes in October last year. The first new-build Autograph Collection properties in Dubai, La Ville and Lapita, opened. Both the Sheraton Oman and Sheraton Cairo re-opened after their refurbishments, and the Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace opened in Q4 2016, representing Marriott Hotels & Resorts’ brand entry into Morocco and Marriott International’s first property in the city. The Ritz-Carlton Jeddah was a brand launch in the Saudi Arabian city, and further openings included the Sheraton Annaba in Algeria and the Marriott Al Forsan in Abu Dhabi.
The number of signings have been equally strong: The Ritz-Carlton, Amman will mark the debut of the brand in Jordan; a Westin in Riyadh is set to mark the return of the Westin flag in Saudi Arabia; the first Element property in KSA was signed in the last 12 months, as was the first in Egypt; and no fewer than four new luxury hotels in Morocco have been signed.
Kyriakidis says: “We have gone from 11 operating countries in 2012, to 30 operating countries in 2017 across MEA.
“The acquisition of Starwood Hotels combines 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.
“My vision for Marriott International in MEA is to make [it] the favourite travel company in the region. Our region has so much to offer. It is robust and dynamic, and one of the fastest-growing in the world.”