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Leading global hotel chain Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (HOT - Analyst Report) has recently declared that it is on the verge of launching 50 new hotels with 14,000 guest rooms in the rapidly-growing emerging market of Middle East and Africa (MEA) by 2018. Apart from this, Starwood is also undertaking a brand conversion strategy to further strengthen its footprint in the region.

Starwood currently owns and operates 82 hotels mostly under the Le Méridien and Sheraton brands across the region. These openings will reflect a 60% additional increase in the company’s existing MEA coverage. The company aims to own more than 100 properties in the region, launching 20 new hotels by 2015.

However, to tap the growing potential, many other hoteliers including Marriott International Inc. (MAR - Analyst Report) and Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (WYN - Analyst Report) are also making their presence felt in the MEA region.

Coming to the brand, as per the expansion plan, Starwood will unveil 12 hotels in UAE with 6 new properties exclusively in Dubai by 2017. Moreover, Starwood is all set to open 6 properties in Saudi Arabia by 2015. Apart from this, Starwood is also trying new growth opportunities in Iraq, Nigeria, and Algeria.

In a concerted endeavor to strengthen its full-service, luxury brand portfolio, Starwood is slated to introduce two St. Regis branded hotels in Abu Dhabi, and Cairo in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Starwood has also declared that it will unveil 6 W branded properties in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Amman over the next four years. In addition, the company’s mid-market brand, Aloft is also growing in the region.

Earlier in March, Starwood transferred its headquarters from Stamford, CT to Dubai, UAE for one month in order to focus more on Starwood’s growing international portfolio and explore new development opportunities in the Middle East countries.

Starwood currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Another hotel stock worth a look is Choice Hotels International Inc. (CHH - Snapshot Report), which carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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