Hilton will move hundreds of jobs from Beverley Hills, California, to locate itself in the same area as a number of major competitors including Marriott International, in a move which cements Washington’s growing reputation as a global hospitality business hub.

Relocating to the Washington area will significantly reduce the hotel group’s operating expenses and will position the company in a more central location from which to operate a global business, according to chief executive Christopher Nassetta.

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Competitor Marriott International is also pursuing an aggressive global expansion strategy with plans for a worldwide system to encompass 600,000 rooms by the end of 2009.

The group expects to add 32 new properties in the Middle East as well as 72 hotels across the globe by 2014.

Hotel group Starwood plans to open 80 to 100 hotels this year. Much of the current expansion is a result of globalisation creating new customers, particularly in emerging markets. “There will be 1 billion entering the middle classes in the global economy,” said Starwood chief executive Fritz van Paasschen.

All three companies’ overseas expansion focus comes at a time when hotel owners and operators are suffering from a downturn in travel.

According to hospitality research group STR Global, US occupancy was down 12.6% in the final week of February.