After Merger, What's Next for Marriott and Starwood's Luxury Brands

When Marriott International announced it would buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts last year one of the first questions to arise is what would happen to the myriad of brands each mega-hotel company owns. Marriott owns 20 across all sectors; Starwood has 10.

James Latham, director of our sister site, InternationalMeetingsReview.com, caught up with Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson at PCMA/Convening Leaders in Vancouver last week and asked him how things will fare for the luxury hotel brands in the mix.

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PCMA 2016 - Interview: Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International on 'Luxury Brands" from International Meetings Review on Vimeo.

“In the luxury space, of course, we've got Ritz-Carlton, Bulgari, Edition, Autograph, all on the Marriott side. On the Starwood side, we've got St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and W, again, a very strong portfolio of brands. I think generally we intend to keep them all,” Sorenson told Latham. “We think the demographics around luxury travel are positive for the long-term. We'd like to have as many strong brands to plan in this space as possible and make sure we're delivering experiences, which are distinct. We'll work on making sure those brands are defined in a way that one can be sensed to be different than another but still be true to a luxury experience.”

Starwood, as an example, is rapidly expanding W, often credited as being the first “lifestyle” brand; it was modified in recent years to be skewed more toward luxury as affluent travelers embraced its relaxed style, which has an emphasis on design and a more contemporary approach to amenities. There are currently 46 W hotels under the W moniker, which this morning announced the W Aspen, set to open for the 2017 ski season. The goal is currently to have 75 W hotels open by 2020 globally.

That’s under the current Starwood leadership; the merger with Marriott is set to close later this year. 

Marriott International agreed to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for $12.2 billion in November, a move that will create the world’s largest hotel company with more than a million rooms, as well as the world’s largest hotel loyalty program. At the time of the announcement, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sorenson will remain CEO of the combined company. 

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