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ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN-Bill Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, responded quickly to the terrorist bombing of the hotel here in the capital Saturday, a suicide-triggered truck bomb that reportedly killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 250. The hotel was mostly destroyed by the blast and a resulting fire. Marriott addressed the tragedy in his blog within hours, praising the bravery of the security detail that stopped the truck and the hotel workers, those that survived and helped with the rescue efforts. “This senseless tragedy and the profound loss of life has left me greatly saddened,” he said in the blog. “My heart goes out to those who’ve been injured and the families and the victims.”

The hotel is well-fortified, and the hotel security had stopped the truck outside a large gate. “These guys were defending the lives of hotel guests and their fellow co-workers. They were killed in the line of their duty,” Marriott says.

It’s not the first time, however, that Marriott has had to express condolences for a terrorist death at this hotel. In January 2007, a lone suicide bomber exploded a bomb in a loading dock at the hotel, killing a security guard and injuring a hotel maintenance worker. “We have a lot of heroes, here at Marriott,” the CEO said then, in his blog.

There will be interest in the industry to see how investors, and customers, view this tragedy, with all the hotel development now going on in the Middle East. According to a recent Portsmouth, NH-based Lodging Econometrics study, there are a record 527 projects totaling nearly 156,000 rooms currently in the pipeline throughout the Middle East, nearly half of which are in the upscale and luxury categories. Marriott is one of the largest developers in the region, with 23 projects. And many developers know the risks: in an Ernst & Young Hospitality Investment Survey released in February 2008, investors acknowledged political instability as the biggest downside for spending money on projects oversees, but agreed that the growth in foreign markets, especially countries such as Dubai and China, outweighs some of the risk.

Some experts ask that guests and investors don’t give in to terrorists’ demands of fear. In a GlobeSt.com interview, Intercontinental Hotels Group CEO Andrew Cosslett, then commenting about alleged terrorist attacks throughout Europe, said the traveling public has become desensitized to threats. The gap between the public’s initial nervous response to a security situation and their return to the travel market is, he said, getting “shorter and shorter.”

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