The UAE is set to become the largest market for Marriott International as it opens more hotels here in the next three years, including five properties in Abu Dhabi.
Egypt is currently Marriott's number one market, with a total of 3,100 rooms. In the UAE, Marriott currently has 2,500 rooms but that will more than double to 5,100 rooms.
"The UAE will overtake Egypt over the next three years and that is very significant for us," said Alex Kyriakidis, the president and managing director of Marriott International in the Middle East and Africa.
"This will take our presence in the capital from one hotel to six hotels and we are very excited about that."
He was speaking at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai.
Until recently, Marriott did not have a presence in Abu Dhabi but it has just opened a Ritz-Carlton hotel next to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The five new properties will include Marriott Executive Apartments, one of the group's key areas of focus in coming months.
While Abu Dhabi's hotels have previously relied mostly on business visitors, its recent investment in cultural attractions including the Louvre and Guggenheim museums is beginning to pay off in attracting leisure travellers.
"It's very nice to see because the results are beginning to come through," Mr Kyriakidis said. "There was a time a couple of years ago, three years ago when people were saying Abu Dhabi is oversupplied. Well, guess what? Abu Dhabi is coming back."
Hotel revenue per room in Abu Dhabi rose 9 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period a year ago, Mr Kyriakidis said, citing Smith Travel Research. Occupancy is "north of 70 per cent", he added.
"This is a very credible performance," he said. "And Dubai is on steroids at 87 per cent [occupancy]."
Dubai now has the highest revenue per available room rate globally at US$260.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Saturday announced that Dubai wants to attract 20 million tourists by 2020.
"Not all new visitors will be able to afford to pay on average $260, $300 per night so [Dubai] needs to diversify its portfolio and needs to bring more limited-service options to the market to sustain that growth and to bring in people from different price segments," Mr Kyriakidis said.
"That is good for the industry. There is lots more room for growth. Certainly for us at Marriott International with brands straddling the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marquis to Courtyard by Marriott extended stay residences, that's good."
Marriott International yesterday announced a rise in first-quarter income to US$136 million, a 31 per cent increase compared with a year ago.
The group's portfolio in the Middle East and Africa currently comprises 43 properties in 12 countries, offering 12,919 rooms across seven lodging brands.
This is set to expand by 45 properties and 10,875 rooms by 2018.