Oman to get 2,000 hotel rooms in 2013



AFTAB H. KOLA
aftab@timesofoman.com

Dubai: Global hospitality chain Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has announced that it will open three new five-star hotels in Oman over the next five years. As many as  2,000 hotel rooms are expected to be added to the existing stock in Oman this year alone. 

Addressing a press conference held here, Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, said, "All three new properties, when open, will offer 700 rooms in total. The first to come up will be the 'W' hotel, the undisputed leader of contemporary lifestyle brands, opening in 2016. There are more than 50 'W' hotels across the world. The other two hotels are the Element Hotel, an environment-friendly brand, and Westin, an upscale hotel chain. Since Oman is an important market for us, we wish to explore more opportunities here."
At the moment, the only hotel managed by the group is the Sheraton, which is currently closed for renovation.

Strong pipeline for growth
On their Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plans, Frits van Paasschen, who completed Starwood's month-long relocation to Dubai, stated, "We have a very strong pipeline for growth in the GCC. Currently, we operate 37 properties in the GCC, offering 10,775 rooms. Over the next five years, we expect to add 22 hotels, offering 7,217 rooms. Of these 22 hotels, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will receive the largest chunk, with 12 hotels, followed by Saudi Arabia, with six hotels."

While relocating the group to Dubai, van Paasschen and members of Starwood Hotels and Resorts' Senior Leadership Team met with over 3,000 associates, conducted nearly 50 owner meetings, and visited all 14 Starwood hotels in Dubai, which is the company's second-largest hotel market, behind only New York City.

Starwood also has plans to increase its Middle East and Africa (MEA) portfolio by more than 60 per cent, with nearly 50 new hotels set to open over the next five years, adding more than 14,000 guest rooms to the region and creating thousands of local employment opportunities.

With 82 operating hotels and more than 20 hotels expected to open by the end of 2015, Starwood is on track to reach a milestone of 100 hotels across the Middle East and Africa.  
"With over 80 per cent of Starwood's pipeline coming from rapidly growing markets, it's important for us to remain at the forefront of new travel demands and changing travel patterns," remarked Simon Turner, president of Global Development at Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
 "The Middle East is experiencing rapid economic growth, a burgeoning middle class, and ever-greater global connectivity, and the Dubai relocation will help us to expand all our brands across this important region."

The company also announced a comprehensive renovation strategy for its Le Méridien brand, in which Starwood and its ownership groups will invest more than $200 million for the renovation of 13 hotels and resorts in the MEA region over the next three years.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts manages more than 1,000 properties in more than 100 countries and territories, with nine distinctive brands: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Méridien, Aloft and Element, and Starwood Vacation Ownership, an operator of high-end vacation interval ownership resorts.

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