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In order to beef up its Middle East portfolio, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT - Analyst Report) is set to unveil three properties under its contemporary lifestyle brands Sheraton, Westin and Four Points in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The properties are being developed in association with Jabal Omar Development Company. Christened Sheraton Makkah Hotel, Westin Makkah Hotel and Four Points by Sheraton Makkah Hotel, these properties are slated to open for business in 2015.

Makkah, the capital of Makkah Province, is an important tourist destination owing to its historical and religious importance. It is considered the most sacred city to followers of Islam and nearly 15 million travelers visit the city every year. These factors justify the hotelier’s decision to expand its presence in the region. Starwood currently owns two properties in the city.

The new hotels will be located near Al Haram, the world’s biggest mixed-use complex, in Makkah. We believe that these properties, boasting a total of 1,496 guestrooms, will create a strong guest base, going ahead.

Starwood has been focusing on the rapidly growing markets of the Middle East for quite some time. The global hotel chain sees more growth opportunities in the region with the growing population and its emergence as a business and leisure hub. As per the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of tourists traveling to the Middle East is expected to reach 136 million by 2020.

Commencing its journey in 1963, Starwood now owns approximately 50 hotels in the Middle East with as many as 10 properties exclusively in Saudi Arabia. The company is expected to make a twofold increase its Middle East portfolio with the launch of eight properties in Saudi Arabia over the next three years.

Earlier in Mar 2013, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company transferred its headquarters from Stamford, Conn. to Dubai, UAE for a month to better focus on its growing international, especially the Middle East, portfolio. This was a strategic move considering the fact that hoteliers, including Wyndham Worldwide Corp. (WYN - Analyst Report), Hyatt Hotels Corp. (H - Snapshot Report) and Marriott International Inc. (MAR - Analyst Report), have already made their presence felt in the region.

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