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Marriott's push to be the largest hotel company in Africa

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Marriott International is expecting to become the largest hotel company in Africa after announcing this week that it signed a letter of intent to acquire the hotel brands of South Africa-based Protea Hospitality Holdings and its 116 hotels in seven countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

The move will nearly double the U.S.-based company's room total in Africa to 23,000.

"Africa has significant untapped potential for travel and tourism, both as a destination and source of new global travelers," said Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive officer of Marriott International.

Marriott International currently owns 3,900 properties in 72 countries and territories around the world. But it wasn't until recently that the company started looking to grow its portfolio in Africa and it's finding competition with other U.S. hotel companies.

The reason? Africa is expected to see tourism growth that could be on par with Asia Pacific's tourism boom over the last few decades. According to a recent report from the World Bank, "Africa has the potential with its cultural and natural resources to outpace other regions in attracting valuable tourism dollars." The fact that there are strong, and growing, economic growth numbers coming from sub-Saharan Africa will only help.

And why acquire Protea?

“The development cycle for opening new hotels in Africa is typically long due to the challenges posed by emerging infrastructure, so joining forces with Protea Hotels and their highly respected management team is the strongest way to jumpstart Marriott’s footprint in Africa," said Alex Kyriakidis, president of Marriott International for the Middle East and Africa.

But it isn't just Africa where Marriott is looking to grow. Last year, the company announced a $2 billion expansion plan over three years to increase its global reach. Other than North America, which will get 45 percent of the new rooms, Marriott plans to add 27 percent of the new rooms to the Asia Pacific region (14 percent in China), 11 percent in Europe, 9 percent in the Middle East and Africa, and 8 percent in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Photo: Marriott

— By on November 8, 2013, 1:09 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure