Marriott International CEO, Arne Sorenson.

Marriott International’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Arne Sorenson, has told a packed 20th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin that the company’s recent acquisition of Starwood was about growing the customer base.

Sorenson said the deal was “a starting point for something we have to build. We need to create something better, not just bigger, than what there was before”.

He said the key driver for the acquisition was a need to create an “eco-system of loyal customers with whom we can develop great relationships which would allow us to protect and grow our business.”

Sorenson said he understands that “people want experience today, more than things, and are constantly looking for better value”.

Marriott have 90,000 hotel rooms opening in 2017 and currently run a $250 billion property portfolio across 30 brands.

Asked about the biggest threat to the industry, Sorenson said this was “the global wave of populism” and he feels Hilary Clinton lost the US election, rather than Donald Trump winning it.

Sorenson has a “strong sense that immigration and refugees is not an area we have consensus on” and he is nervous of the trend that “too many countries in the world, including my own, are turning too far inward”.

He feels strongly that it needs to be communicated that people are welcome to the USA and notes that 10% of GDP is driven by travel.

Sorenson was presented the IHIF Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 on the same day.

HM to flew to Berlin with British Airways.