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452From the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT) today announced it will open 35 hotels in the Middle East in the next three years, expanding its portfolio to over 80 hotels. Starwood will open seven new hotels in the Middle East this year, in both established and fast-growing markets such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iraq and Bahrain. With a current footprint of 46 hotels and more than 13,000 rooms, this diverse region is key to Starwood’s global expansion strategy and continues to be one of the company’s most rapidly growing markets.

“Rising wealth and ever greater global connectivity are driving new travel patterns and demand for travel, creating a once-in-a-lifetime growth opportunity for our industry,” said President & CEO Frits van Paasschen. “With Starwood’s long-established presence, local teams and strong relationships in the Middle East, which we further deepened during last year’s month-long re-location of our headquarters to Dubai, we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these trends.”

Starwood Continues Dynamic Expansion in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and Re-Enters Iraq

Earlier this year, Starwood marked its entry into the Emirate of Ajman with the opening of Ajman Saray, a Luxury Collection Resort. The company continues to strengthen its presence in Dubai and will open a new Sheraton hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road this September, marking Starwood’s 15th hotel in Dubai, the company’s second largest hotel market behind only New York City, which has 21 hotels. The UAE is the largest growth market for the company in the Middle East with plans to have more than 30 Starwood hotels by 2017.

Starwood currently has 10 hotels in Saudi Arabia with another eight properties in the pipeline. Upcoming openings in the Kingdom include three new hotels in Makkah – Sheraton, Westin and Four Points by Sheraton – adding nearly 1,500 rooms to the Holy City. The Aloft brand will debut in Saudi Arabia with Aloft Riyadh in 2015.

Continuing to leverage its first-mover advantage with the Sheraton brand, Starwood will re-enter Iraq after two decades with the milestone opening of Sheraton Dohuk in October. Starwood will also open three hotels in Erbil under its Sheraton, Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton brands by 2017.

Hotel Conversions Accelerate Starwood’s Growth Momentum

Following last year’s successful conversions of Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates and Four Points by Sheraton Riyadh Khaldia, the company will unveil three new conversions in 2014. Opening in July, The Westin Bahrain City Centre and Le Méridien Bahrain City Centre will mark the debut of both brands in Bahrain. Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Resort, Broumana will be the first Luxury Collection hotel in Lebanon when it opens in November after an extensive renovation.

“Our steady pipeline of new hotels and conversions in the Middle East represents the huge development opportunities this region offers for our nine brands,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development. “We’ve seen a real shift in our portfolio from primarily upper-upscale hotels to a more balanced mix today, with the continued growth of our luxury and mid-market brands. Our growth in this important market demonstrates the trust owners have in our world-class brands and interest to tap into Starwood’s distribution network and globally-recognized loyalty program.”

Starwood to Grow Luxury and Mid-Market Portfolios by more than 50%

Starwood is seeing rapid growth of its contemporary, design-led W Hotels brand. Following the successful launch of the brand in the region with the opening of W Doha in 2009, Starwood plans to open five more W Hotels across the Middle East, including two in Dubai and one each in Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Amman in the next few years. These, together with upcoming St. Regis and Luxury Collection hotels, will more than double Starwood’s luxury footprint in the region by 2017.

Starwood’s mid-market brands Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft continue to expand across the Middle East where there is a strong demand for reliable and affordable hospitality. The company will more than double its mid-market portfolio in the region with openings including the addition of six new Aloft hotels across Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Continued Enhancement and Expansion of Upper-Upscale Brands

Starwood’s upper-upscale brands – Sheraton, Le Méridien and Westin – represent almost half of the company’s pipeline in the Middle East. The Sheraton brand is leading this growth with seven hotels under development. Upcoming openings include established and emerging destinations such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Renowned for its distinct wellness positioning, Westin will more than triple its presence in the Middle East across the region by 2017.

As Starwood continues its extensive expansion across the Middle East, the company is also focused on upgrading a quarter of its existing portfolio of hotels in the region, primarily under the Sheraton and Le Méridien brands. Recently renovated hotels include Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa and Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina in Dubai, as well as Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi. Starwood also recently added 200 rooms to Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre.

“Together with our partners, we continue to make significant investments to enhance our hotels across the region,” said Michael Wale, President, Europe, Africa and Middle East. “These renovations will ensure that our properties are operating under the latest brand standards, complementing the personalized service and distinctive lifestyle experiences we offer as we maintain our leadership position in the competitive Middle Eastern market.”

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