Arne Sorenson and Alex Kyriakidis. Arne Sorenson and Alex Kyriakidis.

Even as the de-flagging of Al Habtoor City hotels dominated the news cycle last quarter, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson believes that the loss – the single biggest faced by the company worldwide – has not been bad for its brand image.

"We all know Hilton has signed a franchise contract for the AHC cluster hotels. The owner had a different vision for the management of that complex than our vision," Sorenson revealed at an interview with Hotelier Middle East at Bulgari hotel in Dubai.

"We are not in the business of departing hotels, that's not our primary aim but the economics associated with separation seemed logical and we're quite confident that we will have incremental growth in each of the three brands [St. Regis, W and Westin] in the relatively near future in Dubai.

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Marriott's president and managing partner Alex Kyriakidis also revealed that "sometimes you come to a point where the vision on the partners side is different from the vision we had going into the relationship, as Arne said commercial achieved what we both want to achieve and it made sense in this situation that we both amicably parted."

"The Habtoor group was and continues to be a very substantial partner and owner and we still operate their hotels in Europe and the Middle East," Kyriadikis added.

According to Sorenson, the collective response from owners is important and they are impressed by the power of the portfolio and the loyalty programme.

“We very much want to talk about growth and not the hotels we don't operate,” Sorenson revealed.

Kyriakidis added that 70% of current Marriott owners have developed more than one hotel with the company, “so the the desire of those owners to grow with us and continue to grow with us is very high.”