Marriott CEO says success isn’t guaranteed, but optimistic on balance in KSA

Vast wealth and the promise of dramatic change make for cautious optimism concerning Saudi Arabia, the chief executive of the world’s largest hotel chain, Marriott, has said.

“It’s trying something it’s never tried before… how to modernise without ripping society apart,” said Sorenson. “So there is reason to be cautious.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s vast “financial and natural wealth” give Marriott cause to pursue plans in the country,” said Sorenson.

“It is rich with resources, and can open the religious tourism market as wide as 1 billion Muslims, which is a big number,” he said,” If they can find a way to take advantage of the demand and transition into a place that can attract that tourists.”

Marriott is looking to add 29 new properties in Saudi Arabia by attracting $2billion in investments over the next four years. With 23 hotels currently, the country is the currently the second biggest in Marriott’s Middle East grouping following the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s latent religious tourism market holds promise “if the purpose can be broadened,” he says.

“Domestic tourism is a little less revolutionary, but if you’re going to Mecca for pilgrimage, especially if you’re coming in from far abroad, there should be a way to expand the purpose of that trip to non-religious leisure,” he said. “It would involve figuring out where else they could go, how easy they are to get to, cost implications, and price points.”

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