BERLIN, March 11 Hotel operator Marriott
International Inc MAR.N sees strong growth opportunities in
Asia and the United Arab Emirates as it strives to expand
further outside North America despite the economic downturn.
Marriott, which typically manages hotels instead of owning
them, plans to open 130 hotels with overall 32,000 rooms in the
next four years outside of North America, where it now manages
Half of the openings will be in China, India and the United
Arab Emirates, Marriott said on Wednesday at a news conference
at the world's biggest travel fair, ITB.
There was pent-up demand for travel, especially in trendy
and growth markets, and Marriott will be ready to welcome guests
there once the economy had recovered, Marriott President and
Managing Director of International Lodging Ed Fuller said.
Marriott -- which runs the Marriott, Courtyard, Ritz-Carlton
and Renaissance hotel brands -- is also looking for
opportunities to acquire, Fuller said, but seeks individual
hotels rather than big chains to avoid anti-trust issues.
Marriott ranks behind Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG.L)
and Wyndham Worldwide Corp (WYN.N) in terms of number of rooms
It feels the pinch nonetheless. Marriott posted a
fourth-quarter net loss, hurt by cutbacks in business travel.
It said at the time it expected first-quarter revenue per
available room, a key metric of hotel industry business, to fall
17 percent in North America and 15 percent worldwide.
Many hotels are struggling as recession-hit consumers reduce
extras like travel at the same time businesses are looking to
trim travel costs and avoid perceptions of frivolous spending.
(Reporting by Eva Kuehnen)