Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced a continued focus on growth in India and South Asia. Starwood’s legacy in the region dates back to 1973, and the company currently operates 34 hotels with 24 hotels in the pipeline.
It aims to have 100 hotels under operation, development and management contracts signed by 2015 with eight out of nine Starwood brands flying their flag in India.
In the past year Starwood signed 10 new deals in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The company will open The Westin Chennai Velachery, Aloft Ahmedabad SG Road and Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park, Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa and Sheraton Chandigarh Hotel in 2013.
“Already our fourth largest market, India is comfortably poised to be second only to China in terms of our future global growth. India today is still an ‘under-hoteled’ market, and the demand for high-caliber lodging is expected to far exceed current supply for at least the next three to four years. As domestic travel increases and Indian travelers continue to demand more sophistication in terms of both quality and experience, we have significant opportunity to grow our brands across the spectrum in gateway cities, tertiary markets as well as in resort destinations,” said Stephen Ho, President Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels and Resorts.
Continued momentum expanding Upper Upscale brands in gateway cities
Rising wealth is helping drive demand for Starwood's Upper Upscale and Luxury brands. Starwood is growing its upper upscale brands like Sheraton, Westin and Le Meridien further into Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) and gateway markets with the signing of Sheraton Greater Noida Hotel, Sheraton Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center, Le Méridien Delhi NCR, Noida and The Westin Delhi NCR Noida. Le Méridien brand will see a reenergized portfolio with the renovations of Le Méridien Bangalore, Le Méridien Jaipur and Le Méridien Kochi.
“The success of the Westin brand in India as well as the newly built and managed Sheraton, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, has propelled the expansion of these brands into key markets and we are seeing increased traction with the development community,” said Dilip Puri, Managing Director India and Regional Vice President South Asia.
Debut of Luxury brands W and St Regis
Today more people than ever are entering the ranks of the very wealthy and developing a taste for luxury. In the last five years, Starwood has nearly doubled its luxury room count to meet growing global demand for luxury travel.
“We have one of the leading luxury footprints in the world with more than 150 luxury hotels under our St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotels brands. More than 90% of our luxury pipeline is in emerging markets, reflecting new demand for luxury in new places. With a rising middle class, growing disposable income, an affinity for luxury brands and huge pent up demand for foreign travel, India is emblematic of the growth we are seeing in regions around the world and key to our global growth plans,” said Matthew Fry, Senior Vice President, Acquisitions and Development, Starwood Asia Pacific.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts is geared up to bring its world-renowned luxury brands St Regis and W Hotels to India. The W brand will arrive in India in 2014 with the opening of the W Retreat & Spa Goa followed by the W Mumbai, W Noida-Delhi NCR and W Gurgaon WTC, Delhi-NCR all of which are highly anticipated additions to Starwood’s luxury portfolio. St. Regis will make its debut in India with the opening of The St. Regis Noida, Delhi NCR in 2017. These brands have a strong following around the world, including among Indian luxury travelers. W London was awarded the ‘Favorite New Opening International Hotel’ by the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award last year, and this year The St. Regis Bangkok won the award in this coveted category.
Actively Pursues expansion of Resort portfolio
Starwood Hotels and Resorts seeks to expand its resort portfolio with the opening of Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa later this year and will double its resort room count in India by the end of 2014. Starwood recently signed The Westin Bekal Resort & Spa in the state of Kerala and already has The Westin Khandala Resort & Spa and Le Meridien Chennai East Coast Resort & Spa under development besides the W Retreat & Spa Goa.
Nikhil Manchharam, Starwood’s Vice President Acquisitions and Development in South Asia, said: “Starwood has a rich resort portfolio in Asia Pacific with well- known resorts in destinations like Koh Samui, Phuket, Langkawi, and Bali under various luxury and Upper Upscale brands, and we have seen a lot of outbound travel from India to these destinations. In South Asia Starwood already manages well established resorts, including The Westin Sohna Resort & Spa and the W and Sheraton in Maldives. India is a land of many unexplored destinations with huge potential for resort development and, as demand for domestic leisure travel increases, we believe there will be increased demand for quality hotels in these locations.”
Mr. Manchharam added: “Our compelling portfolio of lifestyle brands provides developers the choice to identify the right brand for the right location. Our experience in managing quality resorts gives us the opportunity to be the preferred partners for developers.”
Targets a robust Select Services portfolio
Starwood is looking to accelerate the expansion of its Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft brands setting its sights on expanding its mid-market brands. Starwood is focused on tier 2 cities with hotels currently open and under development such as Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Mysore, and Amritsar. Starwood is also venturing into micro markets such as Faridabad, Noida, and Gurgaon.
“We believe in the opportunities tier 2 markets provide and have seen that new hotels in new markets create their own demand. As cities evolve and the urban Indian landscape continues to transform, tier 2 markets will provide opportunities for both Upper Upscale and for Mid-Market brands,” said Mr. Puri.
Entering new markets
Starwood Hotels and Resorts expanded its leadership position in Bangladesh with the signing of Le Meridien Dhaka and the re-entry of Sheraton in Dhaka. Starwood will also make its foray into new markets like Sri Lanka with Four Points by Sheraton Colombo and Sheraton in Colombo, International Airport and Sheraton Colombo Hotel in Colombo.
“Given the political stability in the region, South Asia has emerged as the second fastest growing market for inbound tourist arrivals, providing many opportunities for development of internationally branded hotels across segments. We are continuing to explore opportunities to enter Nepal and Bhutan and strengthen our footprint in the Maldives,” added Mr. Manchharam.
Investments to support growth
Starwood Preferred Guest, the company’s award-winning loyalty program, better known as ‘SPG,’ has already seen an exponential growth in its India membership and today one out of every two guests at Starwood’s hotels in India is an SPG member.
“We continue to relentlessly leverage SPG, increasing loyalty to our brands by offering more choice, recognition and services to our highest-value guests. Loyalty is a powerful insurance policy in tough times, and the changes we’ve made to SPG are next to impossible for our competitors to copy. We have moved beyond the ‘points and perks’ arms race to introduce personal services that drive ‘loyalty beyond reason’ for our best guests. SPG has won top honors at the Conde Nast Traveller Reader’s Choice Travel Awards two years in a row as the Favorite Hotel Loyalty Program and continues to be key to our India growth strategy,” said Nelli Yong, Vice President, Brand Marketing, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts.
To support its growth in the region Starwood has made a strong commitment with an enhanced Starwood Sales Organization and continued investment in marketing its brands.
Starwood opened its ninth global Customer Contact Center 18 months ago in Gurgaon as an outsourced operation run by a third party. This month, Starwood assumed full and complete responsibility for its CCC operations in India. The new CCC is located next to the Starwood India Regional Office at the Vatika Business Park, Gurgaon. This change is the result of a comprehensive review of the organization’s long term strategic plan and how the CCC can better support upcoming initiatives as well as growth in South Asia.
“Over the past 18 months, we have gained deep and broad insights into local customer behaviors and preferences and learned how to navigate in the highly developed and competitive call center/BPO industry in India. Our operations have also developed strong partnerships with our hotels in the region and have been working collaboratively to increase sales and build customer loyalty. These actions will position us well for greater success and reinforce Starwood’s commitment to support aggressive expansion plans in the region,” said Patricia Neo, Vice President, Customer Contact Centres, Asia Pacific, for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.