Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ strategy of expansion in the Caribbean – think St. Regis and W Hotels – means more luxury for your clients…and more benefits for you.
American luxury resort brands in the Caribbean—they’re a rare breed. With a few notable exceptions, most of the big names in upscale island travel are European imports, or island-born properties. Looking into the future, however, there’ll be more exceptions to that rule than ever before, largely thanks to Starwood Hotels & Resorts. With a handful of resort properties scheduled to open this year, and an already robust collection of resorts that are proving successful all across the Caribbean, Starwood’s proving that U.S.-style luxury can compete in an already crowded travel market.
luxury branding Part of Starwood’s success in the Caribbean, says Chris Austin, v.p. of global sales, leisure and luxury, stems from its success in maintaining and popularizing its brands in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. “We operate hotels in the luxury, upper upscale, upscale and select service categories,” he explains. “Our nine world-class brands have a distinct positioning with signature programming and service initiatives that brings each brand to life.” That means clients know what to expect long before they check in, he says, but that’s only the beginning. “Our hotels and resorts may all be architecturally different on the outside, but for each hotel or resort within the brand, they will all build an emotional connection with our guests, whether it is the Westin Heavenly bed and unwind hour at Westin Hotels and Resorts, or for guests staying at St. Regis who desire the finest expressions of service, with each moment reflecting discreet, bespoke experiences.” That’s a huge selling point in the Caribbean, an ever-evolving market where it’s nearly impossible to familiarize oneself with every competing resort and hotel brand.
Starwood also owes some of its success to the variety of brands that it offers throughout the islands. The Westin brand is the most widespread in the Caribbean, with locations in St. Maarten, St. John, Grand Cayman and Aruba, seamlessly blending upscale amenities and service with areas designed for businesspeople, meeting-goers and convention attendees. Sheraton hotels in the Caribbean, by contrast, appeal more to the family traveler, with kid-friendly public spaces, restaurants and room designs.
Though the branding within each resort is unmistakable, Austin says, these aren’t cookie-cutter properties. Clients staying at Starwood’s Caribbean properties will get a sense not just of the brand, but of their destination as well. “From the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands, from Puerto Rico to Aruba and beyond, each island offers a unique charm all its own,” he explains. “From the exterior and interior design, to artwork in our resorts to food and beverage selections, cultural events and themed events, guests staying at Starwood Caribbean Collection properties will embrace the destination they are visiting.” What’s more, he points out, agents can enhance their clients’ experience of the islands through a special Starwood program. “Travel professionals can order complimentary welcome amenities by visiting starwoodpro.com. Each amenity is delivered to guests on behalf of their travel professional and are selected to provide a welcome to the islands and will be typical of the destination guests are visiting,” he says.
breaking ground Starwood currently operates seven upscale resorts in the Caribbean, with a handful more planned for 2010. “Starwood is well represented in the Caribbean, however, our strategy is to expand our presence by adding more properties representing our nine world-class brands in key destinations,” Austin says. This year, the company is focused on Puerto Rico, where it’ll open two new properties in addition to the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino that debuted late in 2009. “The Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino opened on Nov. 16, 2009, and is the first new build hotel in Puerto Rico in over 10 years,” Austin says. Host hotel to last month’s Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace, one of the largest tourism conferences in the Caribbean, the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino has already made a name for itself with a 4-story-high sundeck, a casino with slots and table games and, of course, plenty of meeting space.