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February 25, 2014

Middle East: Marriott expansion targets MENA

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In the wake of Dubai’s Expo 2020 win, meetme spoke to Neal Jones, Marriott International’s new Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for the Middle East and Africa to discuss how meetings and incentives fit into the group’s ongoing strategy. 

“International growth outside of the US is a core focus for the company,” said Jones. “In the Middle East, we are looking to grow from 25,000 to 70,000 rooms by 2020, which includes going from 2,500 to 10,000 rooms in Dubai. It’s a lofty aspiration, but the good news is that we are already on track to achieving this goal.” 
Marriott’s RevPar is up 10 percent year on year for the Middle East and while performance of its Cairo hotels is relatively “stagnant”, resorts on the Red Sea are showing signs of recovery. 
“Meetings and incentives in Egypt offer great value so it is important that the industry and government work together to capialise on this opportunity,” said Jones. 
Looking to Dubai, the hotelier will begin opening Tower B of the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai in Q1 2014, bringing an additional 800 rooms to market and Jones says there is some “fantastic big group business on the books”. 
“We also opened the Dubai Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf and Mariott Executive Apartments Dubai Al Jaddaf in January and we will be inagurating the Abu Dhabi Central Market Courtyard by Marriott later in the year,” he added. “Dubai’s Expo win is good news as it will help cement our growth plans not only in the UAE but in the region. The related infrastructure developments will inspire confidence among travellers. Of course, meetings and incentives are increasingly important and Marriott has significant conference space to cater for large groups and we will continue to capitalise on that.” 
Marriott’s recent move to acquire Cape Town-based Protea Hospitality Holdings, which operates or franchises more than 115 hotels in South Africa, as well as Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria, Namibia and Zambia, would add around 23,000 rooms to its roster, paving the way for future growth. 
“We see Africa as an extremely important future market with a huge growing middle class. We would love to be the core player in Africa.” 
Marriott Hotels’ Red Coat Direct app for meeting organisers, launched in the US in May 2013, is also proving successful and will be rolled out in 19 languages across its global portfolio of 500 hotels by the end of 2014. The app provides users with a tool to edit their meeting preferences at the touch of a button, without leaving the room. 
From adjusting the room temperature to having lunch served earlier, requests can be made up to three days before a meeting and throughout one. Once a request is made, it goes to the event manager and the department that can fulfill it. 

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