Marriott International (Nasdaq: MAR) has had little trouble maintaining growth despite significant economic headwinds, and the company continues to push forward new strategies to drive growth for the years to come. Its large market cap and presence in its home market seems to be no hurdle in achieving attractive growth quarter after quarter. Now, the company seems to be pursuing a two pronged strategy of swift international and emerging market growth, along with refining its status in the luxury and hip hotel sphere. Both moves bode well for the industry giant.
In North America, the business travel segment is picking up for all of the lodging industry's players. Conferences are helping with group bookings, and leisure travel is on the mend as well. Still, the market is relatively mature.
Marriott has put the pedal down on international expansion, even though it is already represented in nearly 80 countries with hundreds of thousands of rooms. Areas of particular interest are in the Middle East and Africa. In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the company is opening 7 new locations for its Residence Inn brand, addressing the growing demand for extended stay options in the region. With the economic growth in these nations and the increasing attention from multinational corporations, business travelers can be hard pressed to find a place to stay. Marriott, along with Wyndham and other competitors, are working fast to meet the demand.
Besides its rapid build out beyond our borders, Marriott is pushing its existing luxury brands and trying to reshape others into newer, hipper flags. The company's biggest luxury property, The Ritz Carlton, is undergoing tremendous expansion, with goals of hitting 100 locations by 2016. Currently, there are 85. The 15 new locations are set to open mainly in international markets (underscoring the aforementioned strategy again). In less than two years, 20 new Ritz Carlton's have come online in places such as Kazakhstan and Puerto Rico.
The luxury hotel chain, while in hot demand and with a loyal following, does not address a younger, more lifestyle-oriented population. In this segment, Starwood's W chain reigns supreme, but Marriott is hoping to steal some of that market share as well. Interestingly, the company is not introducing new, suave-sounding brands to address the market, but rebranding its existing Renaissance property. Leading the charge is a recently announced flagship Renaissance towering above Penn Station in New York City. The designer hotel is expected to appeal to music lovers and technology enthusiasts. Early this year, the Renaissance in Detroit began a $30 million overhaul with similar goals of attracting the young and discerning crowds.
It appears that Marriott is on top of the industry's trends. With a great management team and a great record of delivering consistent shareholder value -- the stock has appreciated nearly 230% since the beginning of 2009, and the dividend payout has doubled within the past couple of years. Though it may not appear to be a fast growing business, considering its long-run history, Marriott looks to be heading higher.