Christopher Agnew, managing director for MKM Partners, described Marriott’s plans to buy Starwood as designed to combat online travel agencies. “They want people to book directly,” Agnew said. “I think the airlines have done a very good job with that. I’m a Delta guy, and they let you just live in that environment. I think (Marriott) wants that sort of engagement. Scale matters from that perspective.” Matt Costin, managing director for BDRC Continental, agreed that distribution challenges will continue to make large-scale mergers an appealing option in the hotel industry. “Even the biggest operators are being outflanked by the big OTA brands,” Costin said. “Speaking to a couple of our biggest hotel clients, they came up with remarkably similar comments. They no longer look at each other as competition but they do with the OTAs. That’s a compelling argument to join forces.” Todd Antonelli, managing director at Berkeley Research Group, described the merger as a “defensive move” against OTAs. “They’re doing it to gain lever and purchasing power over the Pricelines of the world,” he said. Get the full story at Hotel News Now