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In an effort to expand the global presence of one of its upscale brands, Autograph Collection, Marriott International Inc. (MAR - Analyst Report) will complete the addition of three new European hotels to its growing pool of independently owned and operated high-quality assets by the year-end. These three properties are located in Lisbon, Portugal, and Rouen and Lille in France.

Launched in January 2010, Autograph Collection’s properties sprawl over the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and South America.  Since its opening, the brand has been gaining strong momentum. The fact can be validated by its RevPAR growth of 12% in fiscal 2011.

With the latest inclusions, Autograph Collection will have 12 hotels in Europe and 40 hotels worldwide. The company has been adding properties to its collection at an average of one property per month, since inception. Earlier, Marriot revealed that it intends to open more than 50 Autograph Hotels by the end of 2012.

So far this year, the concept included prestigious properties like Turnberry Isle Miami in Miami, Florida, Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, Denver, Colorado, and the Blue Moon and Winter Haven Hotels in Miami Beach, Florida.

Many owners are willing to renovate or reposition hotels in order to join the Autograph Collection and come under the Marriott brand. Once joined, these properties get to reap the benefits from Marriott’s much greater scale, industry leading reservations and marketing system, as well as rewards loyalty program.

Autograph Collection comprises properties that can be segmented into various categories. The wide variety in guest experience offered by these properties allows the brand to attract customers looking for a unique travel experience that other brands normally fail to offer.

Autograph Collection is acting as a key driver in Marriott’s European expansion. Europe boasts several historic and iconic independent hotels and their distinctive nature is consistent with the brand identity of Autograph Collection. Presently, Marriott’s target is to have 80,000 rooms in Europe by 2015.

There are more visitors to Europe compared to the U.S. because it is easier to get a visa for the European countries. A stronger dollar will likely lead to an increase in visitors from America as well. However, a sluggish macroeconomic environment in Europe due to the continued Euro-zone debt problem acts as a short-term restraint.

Marriott which competes with the likes of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT - Analyst Report) currently carries a Zacks #3 Rank that translates into a short-term Hold rating. We are maintaining our long-term Outperform recommendation on the stock.

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