Naming the nine luxury resort brands under Starwood Hotels & Resorts is like trying to name all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs—the best way to do it is to recall the various personalities of each one in turn.
(Spoiler alert: We’re going to mention them real soon, and in bold, so if you’re trying to think of all nine brands now, avert your eyes.)
The Starwood collection includes an array of popular, widely recognized names, each offering a little something to set itself apart. For instance, Element properties take sustainable hospitality seriously, while Aloft pumps up the hip factor. Similarly, the rest of Starwood’s seven brands—St. Regis, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Meridien, Sheraton, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection and Westin—each make their own distinctive mark on the hotel landscape, but it’s that last one that we want to draw your attention to.
Westin Hotels & Resorts—designed around healthy living and with 189 properties in 37 countries—is seemingly ever-expanding with an array of properties opening in the next few years in destinations from the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates. But in this shaky worldwide economy, how is it that any hotel chain—much less an entire portfolio of brands—continues to grow ever more prominent?
Chris J. Austin, v.p. of global retail leisure and luxury sales for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, answers modestly. “After a certain point of instability, the future looks brighter. One of the assets that Starwood and Westin have is that, due to the brand’s reputation of operating prime luxury properties, we have built a loyal base of repeat customers. After a guest’s first visit, they are bound to return or recommend our services to others.”
Of course, the fact that Starwood is the largest global hotel-management company and luxury hospitality operation in the world probably helps, too.
“The success is evident. For example, in the second quarter of this year room prices in our properties rose, on average, nearly 7 percent across our worldwide network, while occupancy hit a healthy 72 percent, even in Europe.” Most of those bookings, he says, are through business and high-end travel.
“I think one of the main [things] underlining Starwood’s success is that we benefit from tight supply and stronger demand for our brands,” Austin points out. It’s a fair statement—according to Fortune magazine, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has seen its shares soar more than 30 percent since last year.
on the horizon
This success has meant that 2012 has been a busy year for Westin, with openings in New York, with The Westin New York Grand Central; in Colorado, with The Westin Snowmass Resort; and in China, with The Westin Xiamen and The Westin Changbaishan Resort, as well as The Westin Chennai Velachery in India and The Westin Panama in Panama City (as of press time, set to open next month). And 2013 and 2014 don’t look any less busy.
In Asia, for instance, Westin will be debuting properties in China, India, Indonesia and Singapore. In China alone, Westin is set to debut nine properties between 2013 and 2015.
Honing in on 2013 and in China in particular, Westin will fly its flag at four new properties, including The Westin Wenzhou in the southeastern coast of China’s Zhejiang Province; The Westin Qingdao, offering luxury accommodations near shopping districts and the beaches of the Yellow Sea; The Westin Haikou, with views over Haikou Bay; and the 300-room Westin Chongqing Liberation Square.
Austin refers to The Westin Chongqing as “one of the most exciting properties…it’s a great property that manages to fuse shops with first-class restaurants.” Its location in the city’s downtown Liberation Square means guests will have constant access to culture and entertainment. “It’s one of the best new hotels to open in China.”
Westin is also seriously expanding in North America in 2013 with properties set to open in Houston, Birmingham and San Jose, among other destinations.
lending a helping hand
Starwood has made a big investment in helping make travel agents’ jobs easier.
“Two of our more successful tools are StarwoodPro and ProLearning. These programs have been designed with the concept that the needs of a client should fit with the property they’re visiting.”
The programs accomplish that goal by providing agents with a wealth of information about each and every property under the Starwood umbrella. ProLearning is in itself a dedicated learning library exclusively for agents’ use; its goal being to strengthen customer relations while improving profits for both hotels and travel agents. StarwoodPro, meanwhile, is an entire research, booking, and commission payment system, capable of finding information about properties and booking your client’s trip all in one.
“We have about 35,000 graduates in 93 countries,” Austin says. “We encourage travel agents to join,” he says, so that “the travel agent recommending the property is fully knowledgeable with it, and as a result the client has no unpleasant surprises.”
Starwood Hotels & Resorts: (888) 625-4988; starwoodhotels.com
Westin Hotels & Resorts: (800) 937-8461; starwoodhotels.com/westin/index.html