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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 18, 2015

In the first half of this month, the hotel industry steamrolled ahead with expansion, planting first flags for brands across the globe from Chicago to Bangkok, Thailand. And, most of them have been new-builds, signaling the industry is robust, flush with capital and eager to ride the wave of the booming travel business. Here are some of the new entrants.

Starwood's new Le Méridien New Orleans• Stamford, Conn.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which added 23 properties to its North American portfolio in 2014 (and 74 hotels worldwide), planted two new brand flags in New Orleans. Following a $29 million renovation, the chain converted its former 410-room W Hotel to a Le Méridien. That renovation added 1,600 square feet of new meeting space for a total of 20,000 square feet. Days later Starwood announced the opening of its first Aloft hotel in the city, the 188-room Aloft New Orleans Downtown, just blocks away.

Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road in ThailandInterContinental Hotels Group continued the global expansion of its boutique hotel brand, Hotel Indigo, opening its first such property in Southeast Asia, the 192-room Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road. This followed last year's debuts in Madrid, Spain; Paris; Rome; and St. Petersburg, Russia. The brand's portfolio now stands at 62, and IHG says it has another 15 Hotel Indigos in its European development pipeline.

Ballroom of the new Raffles Jakarta, Indonesia• Singapore-based Raffles Hotels & Resorts has steadily enlarged its Asian portfolio. This week it opened its first hotel in Indonesia, the 173-room Raffles Jakarta, which features a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and several meeting rooms, in the heart of the city's Golden Triangle. A full service spa and two more restaurants are scheduled to open on-site later this year. The new hotel brings the luxury chain's portfolio to 12. Raffles, which last year opened its first property in Istanbul, Turkey, says it has plans to open more high-end hotels in the next two years, including one each in Egypt, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

• Also planting a first flag was luxury hotel chain Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, which opened the 273-room Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay in Bahrain. And Loews Hotels & Resorts touched down in the Windy City with the debut of the 400-room Loews Chicago Hotel, which features 29,000 square feet of meeting space. "Returning to Chicago with a branded hotel has been a goal of our for some time now," said Jonathan M. Tisch, Loews' chairman, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 2. "It is especially exciting for us to be able to expand our footprint by adding such a spectacular property at a time when Chicago is thriving."