by Loren G. Edelstein | October 26, 2016

During IMEX America this week in Las Vegas, Brian King, global brand officer of Marriott International, sat down with M&C to discuss the chain's merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which officially closed Sept. 23, and address some concerns of meeting professionals. Following are some highlights from the discussion, as well as a video from the show floor.
 
Has the deal affected existing group contracts?
Not at all. What is signed is what is honored. The one thing we are wickedly committed to is not disrupting our customers' experiences.
 
Will prices rise due to less competition?
I think it is an overstated concern. We have micro-market pricing, meaning our hotels in the same market generally have different owners. Seventy-five percent of our inventory is franchised. We, as a parent company, have no control over pricing.
 
Will Marriott rebrand any properties?
We have 30 brands now, some of which are in the same category. But those hotels are successful already. So, no, we have no plans to rebrand anything.
 
What kind of marketplace trends are you seeing?
Multiyear signings are at an all-time high. This is common in the association space, but now we're seeing it a lot more for corporate meetings. Smart planners are booking early, and they're booking multiyear contracts with one point of contact.
 
How about the size of meetings?
Big meetings are still getting bigger, and small meetings business is still strong

The company said it would link Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty programs. How is that going?
It's done! There was a lot of skepticism on what was going to happen on the rewards side. On the day we merged, we linked those accounts. It happened in one day. People were amazed.