by Michael J. Shapiro | April 28, 2016

Group demand at Marriott is particularly strong in the second and third quarters of 2016, revealed Marriott president and CEO Arne Sorenson, with group-revenue pace up by 7 percent for the rest of the year at full-service hotels in North America. Sorenson noted the solid group business in the company's first-quarter earnings report, released Wednesday.

Marriott was pleased with first-quarter performance overall: Adjusted earnings per share were up up by 19 percent year-over-year, "meaningfully ahead of expectations," according to Sorenson. Worldwide system revenue per available room was up by 2.6 percent for the quarter, and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the quarter rose by 7 percent year-over-year.

The development pipeline increased to 275,000 rooms in the first quarter, compared with 240,000 in Q1 2015. The Marriott and Courtyard brands make up more than 35 percent of the projects in terms of room count.

Marriott expects RevPAR for the full year to rise by 3 to 5 percent in North America and worldwide, not including any impact from the acquisition of Starwood. That deal still is expected to close midyear. "Integration teams from both companies have been working over the last several months to ensure a smooth transition," added Sorenson. "We look forward to creating the largest lodging company in the world."