I remember travelling across the world to the desert sands of Saudi Arabia in 1979. We were starting to open hotels all over the world. With its rich culture and strong heritage, Saudi was the best place to plant our first flag in the Middle East.
The Riyadh Marriott Hotel opened its doors in 1980, and remains a flagship for us in this part of the world. It holds a special place in my heart. It doesn’t seem that long ago standing there and looking at the model rendering.
When the hotel was built, Riyadh was a city on the move with a population of around 400,000. There was a hotel shortage, but that was changing rapidly as the economy and population grew. Our hotel became a catalyst for further investment and development. A hub formed around the hotel bringing new life to the neighborhood. Today, the population of Riyadh is 5 million and the Riyadh Marriott Hotel is no longer an outpost, but sits in the heart of the city.
For the last year, our brand team has made a spectacular renovation. It’s re-designed lobby has changed it into a place to hangout and work or play. And the entire hotel really looks beautiful.
The Middle East and Africa region has always been challenging, but so much excitement, passion and adventure exists out there. We now have seven hotels in Saudi Arabia, and another seven opening by 2017. I’ve travelled over there several times, and each time I learn something new about the people, and the places. There’s so much more potential growth and so much more to discover.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.