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by Michael J. Shapiro | December 17, 2012

Craig S. Smith, Marriott International's former vice president and chief operations officer for the Asia Pacific region, has been named the company's first president for the Caribbean and Latin America. Marriott is strengthening its focus on a region that saw openings or conversions of eight hotels in 2012, in five different countries. "Latin America's booming economy has led to an expanding middle class eager to travel to new places and do business within and outside the region," said Smith in a statement. Smith, who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, resided in several Latin American countries while growing up. He started with Marriott nearly 25 years ago, serving as general manager of properties in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Peru before spearheading the company's expansion into Asia. Marriott currently has 74 properties in 25 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America; by 2017 the company plans to open 70 additional hotels in the region, representing 10 different brands.