March 6, 2017 / 2:32 PM / 5 months ago

Marriott to speed up expansion of Starwood brands: CEO

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FILE PHOTO: Marriott Chief Executive Arne Sorenson speaks during an interview with Reuters in a hotel in Berlin, March 3, 2015.Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hotels group Marriott International (MAR.O) is planning to speed up the expansion of brands acquired in the takeover of rival Starwood, and is not ruling out further additions to its portfolio, its chief executive said on Monday.

Arne Sorenson also said 2017 was shaping up to be a solid year, though with some clouds on the horizon.

"We are concerned about whether national policies around travel roll out in a way that is harmful to our business and economies," he said on the sidelines of the IHIF hotel conference in Berlin, highlighting political changes in the United States and Britain, and upcoming elections in Europe.

Marriott, with brands including Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and Autograph, completed the acquisition of Starwood in September, adding names such as Sheraton, W and Aloft to create the world's largest hotel chain with more than more than 6,000 properties in 122 countries.

Sorenson said Marriott wanted to keep up the same rate of expansion as before the deal, meaning faster growth for the Starwood brands. He said a new Marriott group hotel would open on average every 15 hours in 2017.

"We think with Aloft we can really ramp it up and grow them at a faster pace than Starwood," Sorenson said.

He noted that while it had taken Aloft about a decade to reach 100 hotels globally, Marriott's comparable AC Hotels had reached that figure since 2014 in the United States alone.

Even with 30 brands now, Marriott was not ruling out further additions to its portfolio, Sorenson added.

"We don't think we've grown to the point where we're complete, we think we have a lot of growth ahead of us," he said, noting that even in the United States Marriott only had a market share of 14-15 percent.

In a nod to competition from apartment rentals, Sorenson said the Element brand acquired via Starwood was considering a concept for rooms with shared communal space. That could be suitable for groups such as hen parties or college reunions.

"A hotel's not been a great place for them," he said.

Despite the addition of more upscale brands via Starwood, the fastest rate of growth in Europe would still come from the Moxy budget brand, Europe head Amy McPherson said, with plans to open 18,000 rooms over the next three years from 1,000 now.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter

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