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Starwood Shifts Regional Office to Dubai; Plans to Double Its Property Portfolio


DUBAI - (May 2006) Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which operates more than 850 luxury hotels around the world, has announced that it will shift its regional office from Cairo to Dubai. The move is part of major restructuring of its operations in the Middle East where the group plans to double its portfolio from 50 to 100 properties within five years.

According to Roeland Vos, President for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in Europe, Africa and Middle East, "Dubai, where the hotel industry is witnessing a phenomenal growth, is our new regional head quarters and the launch pad of our regional expansion."

He said the reorganization would enable the group to streamline operations in a way that produces the maximum benefit for its guests and the owners of the hotels which carry the Starwood brands.

"With an impressive 21% growth in revenue per available room, the Middle East region was the top performing tourist region in the world during 2005 for the second year in row," added Roeland. With the recent acquisition of the Le Meridien chain, Starwood's portfolio of hotels in the region has grown to 48 from 25. In the UAE alone the number of Starwood properties jumped from 7 to 19 hotels.

This has positioned the group as the largest and the only hotel operator having presence in every single market throughout the region.

In Dubai, the latest project announced by the group is the W Hotels Worldwide, a 350-room luxury hotel at Dubai Festival City - the brand's first Middle East property.

W Dubai Festival City, which is scheduled to open in 2008, will be at the heart of Dubai Festival City's 245,000 square meter Harbour of the Creek development and will be the contemporary waterfront community's hospitality centerpiece. Vos said as a sophisticated commercial and tourist destination, with world-class shopping, dining, beaches and year-round sun, Dubai is an ideal regional launch pad for W.

"In the Middle East, we have a longstanding history that goes back to more than 40 years. Our strategy is based on expanding and diversifying Starwood's regional brand portfolio in key growth locations, and the recent acquisition of the Le Meridien brand worldwide represents a tangible translation of our expansion and diversification strategy," he said.

Describing the growth of Dubai as a global tourist and hospitality center as spectacular, Vos said the Dubai magic would sustain as long as the government supports the industry with world-class infrastructure and other innovative marketing ideas that attract tourists and visitors to the region.

Dismissing suggestions that the current boom driven by Dubai is to end bubble-like, he said Starwood sees a long-term prospect for the region as whole and for Dubai in particular.

"Last year, Starwood operations in the Middle East witnessed a phenomenal growth with a 100% portfolio rise. In the next five years, we are geared for a 100% growth aided by the region's dynamic development including the all round economic boom, high population's growth along with its emergence as a major business and leisure destination."

Currently, Starwood group has 14 projects, including five in the Middle East, under construction and 250 deals in the pipeline to ensure that the brand sustains its remarkable growth trend, he said.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which has a presence in more than 95 countries, includes the brands St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W, Le Méridien and the recently announced AloftSM.

Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high-quality vacation interval ownership resorts.

Vos said the $225 million acquisition of the Le Méridien brand management and fee business of 130 hotels and resorts globally supported Starwood's strategic shift from its significant real estate ownership to a management and franchise fee focused model, one of the strategic pillars that underpin Starwood's future direction.

"The acquisition of the Le Méridien brand is an exciting and significant development for Starwood that we believe further defines us as a truly global hotel operator," he said.

"Le Méridien hotels and resorts represents both a great growth opportunity, alongside Starwood's W and Westin brands, and extends the number of destination choices of travel to Starwood loyalists across the world."

With 43 properties in Europe, 47 properties in Africa and the Middle East, 28 properties in Asia Pacific and India and 12 in the Americas the brand is also a perfect complement to Starwood's current geographical footprint, securing its position as one of the leading consumer lifestyle hotel and leisure companies in the world, he said.

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