Arne Sorenson. Arne Sorenson.

US-headquartered Marriott International is “on track” to open 11 new hotels in the UAE this year alone, according to CEO Arne Sorenson.

Year-to-date, the company has added six new properties and is scheduled to add five more in the country,  bringing its portfolio in the UAE to 59 properties and over 17,000 rooms across six emirates by the end of the year.

Two of the company’s openings this year feature regional brand debuts — the eco-conscious Element Hotels brand, which opened earlier this year in Dubai, and the Edition brand, which opened its doors on October 24, this year.

There's no denying that 2018 has been a milestone year for Marriott International in the UAE, with the company anticipating having added a total of 11 properties and over 2,600 rooms by year-end.

The design-led Aloft Hotels made its debut in Dubai with four new openings: Aloft Palm Jumeirah, Aloft Me’aisam and Aloft City Centre Deira, all within the first half the year, and Aloft Dubai South in October.

The company launched its eco-conscious Element Hotels brand in the region with the opening of Element Me’aisam. The Ritz-Carlton brand opened its fifth property in the UAE — The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach.

The company also took over the operations of the Yas Island Hotel from Viceroy, which is scheduled to be flagged as a W Hotel early next year, marking the debut of the brand in Abu Dhabi.

Building off the momentum of the first nine months, the company is gearing up to open three more properties by the end of the year.  These include the Courtyard by Marriott Al Barsha, Four Points by Sheraton Sharjah – which would be the company’s second property in Sharjah, and W Dubai — The Palm.

Even as the de-flagging of Al Habtoor City hotels dominated the news cycle last quarter, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson says he 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,” he adds.

Marriott's president and managing partner Alex Kyriakidis also reveals 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 adds.

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

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