Marriott International Inc. (MAR) is really putting an emphasis on the "international" part of its name.
Traditionally, about 65% of the company's business has been in North America. But right now, more than half of Marriott's project and room development pipeline is outside of the U.S., chief financial officer Leeny Oberg told TheStreet.
"That is a great tribute to being able to grow our brands outside of the U.S. across the spectrum," Oberg said. Marriott hasn't limited that expansion to specific geographies, though. The company is readying new projects across the globe from high end St. Regis properties in the Asia Pacific region to millennial-focused Moxy locations in Europe.
"As Mr. Marriott loves to say, 'more' is the answer," Oberg said.
At year-end 2017, Marriott had 4,769 full- and limited-service properties with 829,694 rooms total in North America. Internationally, the company had 1,662 properties with 405,819 rooms. Last year, the revenue per available room at international properties increased 3.1% from a year earlier, while revenue per available room in North American properties increased 2.1%.
But as the focus on international expansion becomes clearer, could the threat of a trade war under the Trump administration impact Marriott's business?
On Thursday, President Trump signed steel and aluminum tariffs that will take effect in 15 days, but exempt Canada and Mexico. "A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security," Trump said. "You don't have steel, you don't have a country."
"At the end of the day, our business is driven by GDP growth. GDP growth in the markets where our hotels are," Oberg said. "When you think about it in the U.S. -- is [a trade war] going to affect economic growth in the U.S.? That's really where it will come to play."
According to Wolfe Research analyst Jared Shojaian, a trade war would be pretty insignificant to Marriott. He said only about 5% of Marriott's rooms per night are occupied by international inbound travel from outside the U.S. Plus, about 70% of Marriott's earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization come from U.S. operations.
"It does not change my investment opinion on the company one bit frankly," Shojaian said. He rates Marriott's stock as a buy.
He noted that Marriott is a brand company, not necessarily a hotel building company. Contractors pay Marriott, which licenses out their brand to the builders. Essentially, Marriott wouldn't really be all that impacted by higher construction costs as a result of steel or aluminum tariffs.
And even if it were, it doesn't seem builders would care all that much. According to Shojaian, "These are the brands that builders want to build."
Still, Oberg is keeping an ear to the ground in Washington. "I'd say it's too soon to tell," Oberg said, "but obviously keeping an eye on that will be important."