In recent years, the hotel industry has undergone significant change. In fact, since producing the very first Who Owns What? (WOW) poster almost two decades ago, the hotel landscape has transformed dramatically, with the number of ownership companies continuing to evolve.

Through the years, many hotel companies have come and gone, while others have morphed, evolved or disappeared entirely. And, in some shape or form, almost every hotel company today has some kind of symbiotic relationship with other hotel entities — making the industry a complex, complicated and sometimes even convoluted structure. Every year after we produce this mammoth research project — which requires months of painstaking detail work — a series of new announcements come through the pipeline. This year, those announcements included Japan-based APA’s acquisition of Coast Hotels, the sale of Vantage Hotels in the U.S., and on a smaller scale, the sale of the Pantages Hotel in Toronto from Skyline to Silver Hotels Group. Clearly, the WOW poster is a work in progress.

While mergers and acquisitions happened at a torrid pace in the late 1990s when REITs fuelled much of the activity, the pace had slowed somewhat in recent years. But over the past year, it picked up again with a series of huge acquisition announcements, beginning in early 2015 when Marriott Hotels gobbled up homegrown Delta Hotels & Resorts, after it had already changed ownership several times in recent years. Then, later in the year, two huge announcements shook the hotel industry: France-based AccorHotels acquired the Canadian-headquartered Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, followed by the announcement that Marriott Hotels had taken over Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Now, a year later, the acquisitions are official. In late September, news finally broke that Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood had gone through the required series of approvals and is now complete.

Interestingly, for the team at Hotelier, the regulatory approvals came just as we were finalizing the production of both the October/November issue of the Who’s Who Almanac and the WOW poster. Had the news come even a few days later, we probably would have had to consider moving the poster into another issue, as the magnitude of these changes would have impacted the poster’s composition in a significant manner.

Given that consolidation is a means to effectively compete with the growing power of third-party intermediaries and the continuing popularization of Airbnb, we can’t except to be done with it any time soon. In fact, for several years now, industry pundits have predicted that in the not-so- distant future, a handful of companies will dominate the landscape — which begs the question, who will those companies be?

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