Emerging markets, particularly the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, are continuing to be a major focus for the big hotel brands.
Both Hilton and Accor announced major growth initiatives at the end of September, building on InterContinental’s own focus on China highlighted over the summer and Marriott’s zeroing in on that country this month.
Accor said in September that it had signed 62 new hotels in China, giving it 180 hotels and 40,000 rooms either open or in development by 2010.
The current Accor network in China is 50 strong with 15,000 rooms, following the opening of the Sofitel Wanda Bejing in August.
Hilton announced at the end of September a deal that should see 25 new hotels comprising 3,000 rooms opening across Russia. The strategic development agreement with Belgravia Asset Management involves the roll out of Hampton and Garden Inns and comes on top of the deal with London & Regional Properties announced in June.
Some of the dangers of tieing up with regional or national owner-operators were highlighted for Hilton at the end of September when EIH, a member of the Oberoi Group, terminated its strategic alliance with Hilton for the Trident Hilton brand in India. The seven properties will be rebranded as Trident Hotels from the start of April next year.
There had been speculation about the future of Starwood’s relationship with its Indian partner ITC since the ending of a franchise agreement in 2005 and its temporary extension.
But the duo appear to be deepening their relationship. A number of the hotels previously carrying the Sheraton tag have now been move up into the Luxury Collection category while some other new properties now sport the Sheraton brand.
Like its other major rivals, Starwood has ambitious growth plans outside of its domestic market. Of its target of 420 hotels worldwide over the next three years, half are outside the US. In China alone it wants to double its current presence of 34 hotels within three years.