by Leo Jakobson | September 23, 2016

Marriott International announced today that it has completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, creating the world's largest hotel company.

The merger, delayed twice by Chinese regulators, creates a company that operates or franchises more than 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms in more than 110 countries. The combined 30 distinct brands will be maintained, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said in a call this morning. 

"This will be a transaction we will all look back on and say 'What a good idea that was,'" Sorenson said via the company's Twitter account. The new company will maintain all 30 brands "and emphasize their distinctions," he added. 

In a statement, Sorenson said the merger, "will deliver an unparalleled guest experience with more hotels in more global destinations, an unrivaled range of comprehensive accommodations to suit every traveler, and the industry's best loyalty programs. Providing such a wide selection reinforces our enduring commitment to offering guests an even greater world to explore with Marriott at their side." 

Beginning today, the two company's loyalty programs, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) - which incorporates the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program - have merged, and members will receive matching status. Loyalty program merger details can be found here.  

"We're drawing upon the best of our loyalty programs by enabling members to join or link their accounts and immediately receive reciprocal status and benefits," said Stephanie Linnartz, the company's executive vice president and global chief commercial officer, in a statement. "We can't wait to show the loyal members of these programs the power and benefits of Marriott and Starwood coming together." 

"The power and breadth of choice will make our loyalty programs even better," Sorenson added in a Tweet. 

The combined company has more than double Marriott's old footprint in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the company said. 

"We have always made it a priority to practice business with the utmost integrity," Sorenson noted. "None of this will change."