The combined Marriott and Starwood Hotels group projects 2017 earnings to rise by between 3%-6% to top $3 billion.

The forecast came as Marriott, which completed the takeover of Starwood Hotels & Resorts last September, reported combined adjusted earnings [EBITDA] of $2.9 billion for 2016.

Marriott’s worldwide development pipeline increased to more than 420,000 rooms by the end of last year on top of 68,000 rooms added during the 12 months.

The company reported a fourth quarter profit up 11% year-on-year to $756 million.

President and chief executive Arne Sorenson said: “The company delivered record high fee revenues in 2016, boosted by significant unit growth, revpar [revenue per available room] improvement, outstanding property-level margin gains and the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

“We added 11 leading brands to our portfolio as a result of the acquisition and welcomed the 6,000th hotel to our system.

“Together with owners and franchisees, Marriott and Starwood added more than 68,000 rooms during the year and, despite a tightening credit market, drove our pipeline of hotels under development to more than 420,000 rooms.”

He added: “Looking ahead, we’ve never been more optimistic about our long-term prospects.

“Our expected new rooms growth for 2017 remains healthy, customers love our hotels and loyalty programmes, and owners and franchisees prefer our portfolio of brands more than ever.

“Around the globe, Marriott brands represent nearly one in four hotels under construction, and one in three hotels under construction in North America.

“Our strategy of managing and franchising hotels under solid, long-term agreements is proven. Over the years, we’ve shown that this business model delivers meaningful growth in the number and variety of choices for our guests globally, while generating strong sustainable cash flow.

“While we do not assume asset sales in our earnings guidance, we believe assets will be sold in 2017. Not including asset sales, we expect to return $1.5 billion to $2 billion to shareholders in share repurchases and dividends in 2017.”