Dubai: Marriott International’s plans to increase the number of hotel rooms in Dubai to 10,000 by 2020 have been underpinned by the UAE’s successful Expo 2020 bid, a senior executive of the hotel group has said.
“The announcement of [Expo] 2020 is fantastic news for both Dubai and the entire continent because it will cement the continued growth for this part of the world,” Neal Jones, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Middle East & Africa, at Marriott International, said on Wednesday at a media briefing in Dubai.
Regionally, Marriott International plans to more than triple its room numbers in the Middle East and Africa from 20,000 to 70,000 over the next seven years with Dubai set to remain a staple in the portfolio. Dubai already boasts 2,700 Marriott International hotel rooms and by 2020 the country and emirate will account for around 14 per cent of all regional Marriott International hotel rooms, supported by the successful Expo 2020 bid.
“To have the concrete news that investment into Dubai is a done deal and therefore along with the infrastructure investment will be significant that allows us to activate certain elements of our 2020 plan and strategy,” Jones said.
Despite the Expo 2020 announcement coming only just a few weeks ago, Marriott International is already looking at Dubai World Central (DWC), which will host the Expo site seven years from now.
With other hoteliers no doubt looking at moving into the DWC as well, which is also home to Dubai’s newest airport Al Maktoum International, Jones said given the right investment, Marriott International could be one of the first hotels to move into DWC.
“This is absolutely the central part of the world. There with the inbound traffic there is a significant opportunity for transfer and layover … and some of that could be sitting out of the airport,” Jones said on the potential for the airport site hotel.
Around the region, Marriott International is close to finalising its deal to acquire Protea Hotels, the South African brand with 116 hotels in seven African countries. Jones said he expected Marriott International to take ownership of the South African brand in April next year.
In Egypt, a country Jones worked in for Marriott between 2000 and 2004, is “severely soft” for the hotelier. But Jones believes the country’s tourism sector will soon bounce back because “people have short memories.”