Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., reported it is strengthening its long established position in the Middle East as one of the leading luxury hotel operators in the region with a portfolio of nearly 50 existing hotels and a pipeline of 25 new hotels.
Starwood said this growth, primarily in the luxury and upper-upscale segments, represents an increase of nearly 50 percent. By 2015, the Middle East will become the second region, after North America, to operate all nine of Starwood’s world-class brands — St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, Westin, Le Méridien, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, and the recently launched Aloft and Element.
As a key emerging market, the Middle East continues to evolve as an international business and leisure travel destination. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the number of tourists travelling to the Middle East is expected to reach 136 million by 2020 compared to 54 million two years ago.
“Reaching out to new frontiers is a key focus for us. With more than 70 percent of the world’s growth over the decade coming from fast-growing markets such as the Middle East, the region plays a central role in our global expansion and development strategy,” said Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Starwood's presence in the Middle East dates back to 1966 with the debut of the Sheraton Kuwait Hotel & Towers, the company’s first hotel to open outside of the United States. The property was also the first five-star hotel in Kuwait to be managed by an international company. Since that time, Starwood’s portfolio in the Middle East has surged to 47 hotels in ten countries, including: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Bahrain, Pakistan and Yemen.
To mark an auspicious start to the year, Starwood said it will sign deals to open five new Starwood hotels in the region.
The new Sheraton Sharjah, due to open in 2013, will mark the debut of Starwood in the emirate. Starwood currently operates 20 hotels in the UAE, more than any other region, and will expand its portfolio with ten new hotels in the country in the next few years.
In 2013, the company will add to its portfolio in Muscat with the addition of three hotels under its W, Westin and Element brands. These hotels will add 700 rooms to the capital’s room count when they join the Sheraton Oman which is scheduled to re-open this year following an extensive renovation. This hotel development represents a milestone for the sultanate, which is rapidly developing as a popular tourist destination, Starwood says.
In 2014, Starwood will debut its ultra-luxury St. Regis brand to Jordan with the St. Regis Amman and The Residences at St. Regis Amman.