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Starwood to increase footprint in Latin America

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. says it plans to increase its hotel footprint in Latin America by 50 percent during the next five years, opening an average of seven new hotels per year in the region.

The company, based in Stamford, Conn., said that Latin America is one of the world's fastest-growing hotel and travel markets, helped by a growing middle class and a changing business climate there.

Starwood currently has 72 hotels in 13 countries there. It has opened 13 hotels in the last two years in Latin America and has a pipeline of 19 hotels planned for the region. It plans to open six more hotels in 2013 alone.

"Latin America is emblematic of the growth we are seeing in regions around the world and key to our development plans," Simon Turner, president of global development and acquisition for Starwood, said in a statement. "There is strong affinity for all of our brands in the region across the luxury, upper upscale and mid-market segments, and we're looking to build on this interest with new world-class hotels in the right places, with the right partners."

Starwood has 1,146 properties in nearly 100 countries worldwide, its brands include Sheraton, W and St. Regis.

Its shares fell 17 cents to $67.76 by midday.