Marriott gets small to go big

  @FortuneMagazine February 6, 2014: 7:33 AM ET
WMA24 marriott pool

Marriott's newly acquired Protea Hotel Fire & Ice in South Africa is part of an ambitious global expansion.

(Fortune)

World's Most Admired Companies rank: 36
Headquarters: Bethesda, Md.
Employees: 325,000
The Business: Operates and franchises hotels and resorts

In the hotel world, it doesn't get much bigger than Marriott International. Founded by J.W. Marriott and his wife in 1927, the company transformed from one root beer stand in Washington, D.C., to about 3,900 properties in 72 countries, and 18 brands, from the Ritz-Carlton to the Residence Inn. It is the largest hotel company in the U.S. and No. 230 on the Fortune 500. For a time it was slow to act as the company's peers expanded abroad, updating properties for younger, hipper travelers. That has changed. Marriott is now playing an aggressive game of catchup and has plans to open one hotel in Asia, on average, every eight days between now and 2016. Through an acquisition agreement reached in January, it is set to become the largest hotelier in Africa. And with Edition, Marriott is moving into the boutique space. Executive vice president Anthony Capuano says it's the "marathon, not the sprint" that Marriott aims to win.

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