by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | December 22, 2015

Without question, 2015 was a rollicking year for the hotel industry -- one of unprecedented mergers, data breaches, new brands and Wi-Fi blocking charges, just to name a few. Here's a look at some of the top moments in the past 12 months that have surely set the stage for the capital-fueled, fast-moving hotel market going into 2016.

• The mother of all mergers. Of all the hotel mergers in 2015, and there were quite a few, Marriott's surprise acquisition of its former rival Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide for a cool $12.2 billion was by far the largest, making the Bethesda, Md.-based company a global juggernaut wielding 30 brands. The dust had hardly settled on that acquisition bombshell when Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, appeared on Fox Business News' Sunday Morning Futures to talk growing pains. He said Marriott was looking at cost savings of $200 million, mostly by reducing corporate management. "The closer you get to the executive suite in their headquarters, the more you see an overlap," said Sorensen. "I think we'll find the biggest cost savings disproportionately at the higher end of the overhead structure."

• Data breaches everywhere. Hilton, Starwood and Mandarin Oriental all had massive data breaches. But it was Parsippany, N.J.-based Wyndham Worldwide Corp. that became the first U.S. hotel company ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to establish specific data security standards. That measure is part of a lawsuit settlement Wyndham reached with the government agency, stemming from several data breaches at its properties between 2008 and 2010, which led to more than $10.6 million in fraudulent charges. In a statement to Reuters, FTC chairperson Edith Ramirez sent a signal to hotel companies when she said, "The court rulings in the case have affirmed the vital role the FTC plays in this important area."

• No Wi-Fi blocking, please. After being accused of blocking guests' access to outside wireless networks, Marriott international officially withdrew its petition to the Federal Communications Commission seeking direction on legal Wi-Fi security measures. "Our intent was to protect personal data in Wi-Fi hot spots for large conferences. We thought we were doing the right thing asking the FCC to provide guidance, but the FCC has indicated its opposition. As we have said, we will not block Wi-Fi signals at any hotel we manage, for any reason," read a statement from Marriott on its reason for the withdrawal of the petition.

• New brands galore. Starwood launched Tribute, Hyatt launched Hyatt Centric, and Best Western unveiled Glo, its new lifestyle brand. And those are just a few of the new entrants that made their way onto an already crowded landscape. There will be more. Hilton is still mulling a new economy brand, even as its latest Hilton by Canopy line gets ready to open the doors to its first property in Reykjavik, Iceland.

• Hotel renovations soar. U.S. hotels capital investment in making their brands more attractive, not to mention competitive, hit a record high in 2015. According to a report by New York University's School of Professional Studies, hotels are on track to spend nearly $6.4 billion by the end of this year -- a 7 percent increase over 2014.

Looking forward to what’s next! Happy New Year to all.