The last year has been an interesting one for the hotelier and the international operator in the region. Two years after Marriott’s US $13.3 billion purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the work of integrating the acquisition is still ongoing. In August this year, Marriott announced one set of unified benefits across Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) for its members, and the hospitality giant has now revealed a launch date. The combined programme will be launched on August 18, 2018. However, the name of the unified programme is yet to be revealed.
Marriott International has a busy few years ahead in the region, as it plans on opening 85 hotels in the Middle East & North Africa, between now and 2023.
Kyriakidis tells Hotelier: “Bulgari and Element made their debut into the region in the last year. We also debuted Protea Hotels by Marriott in North Africa this year. We are now gearing up to debut the Edition brand in the region with the upcoming opening of Edition Abu Dhabi. We also recently signed Delta Hotels which will be another new brand which we will bring into the region.”
Currently, Marriott International operates 19 brands in Middle East and North Africa. This includes luxury brands Bulgari, JW Marriott, Luxury Collection, The Ritz- Carlton, St. Regis and W Hotels, and premium and select brands Aloft Hotels, Autograph Collection, Courtyard by Marriott, Element Hotels, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Meridien Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels, Protea Hotels by Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, Residence Inn by Marriott, Sheraton Hotels, and Westin Hotels.
He adds: “We pretty much have a brand for every type of traveller and for every trip and purpose. We are on track to increase our footprint in the region by 50% over the next five years.”
However with the new openings and signings, and as Marriott continues to consolidate its position in these countries and debut new brands, it’s been a tricky H1 in the UAE. The group has lost a few management contracts and not all hotel openings have gone according to plan.
In July 2018, Marriott International revealed that it would no longer operate Al Habtoor’s Polo Resort and Club and said it will be handing over the operations of three Dubai hotels -The St Regis Dubai, W Dubai Habtoor City and The Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City - back to the Habtoor Group by July 31. The three hotels have now been franchised by Hilton Worldwide.
W Dubai, which was pushed to an October 2018 opening from its original opening date in May this year has suffered another delay and will now open in 2019.
However, Kyriakidis is still upbeat about the region and the industry, calling this a “cyclical phase” and maintains that the region is still on the up and up.
His vision for Marriott hasn’t changed in the last year and says he wants to make Marriott International the favourite travel company in the region and a partner of choice for its owners. And he’s not far from reaching his goal.
Social analytics firm NetBase has released a new study highlighting the “most loved” brands across five categories including, airlines, car rentals, cruise lines, hotels and travel sites. In the report titled “Social Media Industry Report 2018 Travel and Hospitality”, global hotel operator, Marriott topped the rankings.