HONG KONG (Reuters) - Marriott International Inc, the world's biggest hotel company with luxury brands such as St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton, says it is committed to all of its brands which give it the breadth to take advantage of fast-growing markets like China.
The company was criticized recently by activist investor Jonathan Litt who, according to media reports, has urged Marriott to consider culling its 30 brands to better align itself with competitors such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.
Marriott's Global Chief Commercial Officer Stephanie Linnartz, however, said the group aimed to keep expanding across all sectors of the market, especially in Asia.
"We're focussed on growing multiple tiers (in Asia Pacific), not just luxury... we're also excited about growing our Courtyard brand in China," Linnartz told Reuters on Thursday.
Mid-scale brands like Courtyard are Marriott's fastest-growing segment in Asia Pacific, the company said.
Linnartz was speaking to Reuters during a visit to Hong Kong, where the group opened its first St Regis in the city on Wednesday.
Last month Marriott announced plans to open more than 1,700 hotels globally as part of its three-year growth strategy. It has more than 300 hotels in China in the pipeline for the next three to five years and plans to have all 30 of its brands operating in the Asia Pacific region eventually, up from 23 at present.
The number of brands was one of the group's greatest strengths, Linnartz said.
"Because you have so much breadth and choice. We see in our data that, last year, half of the people who stayed in W globally, also stayed in Courtyard, why? Because people will stay in one brand for business trip, and they want to go on their romantic vacation with their spouse."
The St Regis in Hong Kong is Marriott's 7,000th property globally. The company also plans to bring the JW Marriott Marquis brand to China later this year, and the Tribute Portfolio brand into India.
"We need to be careful to bring what brand into what market, not just the country, but the city. You have to really think about the right consumer demand - is that a luxury market or not?" Linnartz said.
(This story has been refiled to add dropped name in para 6)
(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Susan Fenton)