Marriott International bullish on local growth

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Marriott International Asia Pacific President and Managing Director Craig S. Smith

By Arra B. Francia, Senior Reporter

MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, Inc. is bullish on the Philippines’ tourism industry as it looks to have over 5,000 rooms in the country by 2024.

Marriott International Asia Pacific President and Managing Director Craig S. Smith said they recently signed 14 projects which are now under construction, in addition to its four operating properties in the country. This translates to about 3,700 rooms.

They expect to close six to seven more deals before the year ends, for a total of 24 to 25 hotel projects.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the Philippines, and this is happening because one, the economy is growing very well compared to the rest of the world and two, because of Chinese travelers increasing all over the Asia Pacific,” Mr. Smith said in a media roundtable in Pasay City on Tuesday.

Marriott International will pursue its expansion by partnering with hotel owners and developers for new hotels, as well as by converting existing buildings into one of its brands.

Some of its hotels in the pipeline include Courtyard by Marriott in Caticlan, which is in partnership with conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC). The project will stand inside a integrated resort with a water park. To note, SMC operates the Caticlan Airport in Aklan.

The company will also open The Westin Manila Sonata Place in 2021, to be developed by Gokongwei-led Robinsons Land Corp. Element, another new brand for the country, is scheduled to open in Puerto Princesa, Palawan by 2024.

It has also partnered with Cebu-based property developer AppleOne, Inc. for a Sheraton hotel in Mactan.

For its conversion strategy, Marriott will oversee the renovation of the Maxims Hotel in Resorts World Manila into The Ritz-Carlton brand by 2021. This includes changing the hotel’s lobby area and the creation of a new executive lounge and fitness center.

It will likewise convert a property in Palawan to be branded as Four Points Palawan Sabang Beach in 2020. Its owners are investing $8 million for the renovation.

“Conversion is a great opportunity for us to grow at a much faster rate, rather than construction which could take at least five years. Conversion takes about 12 to 18 months,” Marriott International for the Asia Pacific excluding China Vice-President Victor Clavell said in the same briefing.

Mr. Smith noted that 30% of its growth in the Asia-Pacific region will be through conversions.

“That means that we are getting hotels into our system quicker, and we’re providing more jobs,” Mr. Smith said, adding that their expansion could generate between 7,000 to 10,000 jobs until 2024.

Marriott’s expansion in the country is in line with its overall strategy in the Asia Pacific, where it runs more than 750 hotels across 23 brands in 23 countries. The company targets to have 1,000 hotels in the region by 2020.