Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
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Marking the conclusion of Starwood’s month-long relocation to Dubai, Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. today shared highlights and insights from the company’s immersion in the Middle East.
Throughout the month of March, van Paasschen and members of Starwood’s Senior Leadership Team met with 3,000 associates, conducted nearly 50 owner meetings and visited all 14 Starwood hotels in Dubai, which is the company’s second largest hotel market behind only New York City. The team also took advantage of Dubai’s strategic location to travel to 19 cities across 12 countries, meeting with government officials and potential development partners in fast-growing markets, including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and India. During the five-week relocation, the team travelled 61,000 kilometres (38,000 miles) – the equivalent of circling the globe one and half times.
Over the course of the month, more than 200 of Starwood’s senior leaders and General Managers travelled to Dubai as the company ran day-to-day operations almost 7,000 miles and an eight-hour time zone difference away from the company’s global headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
During the relocation, Starwood executives also met with more than 150 corporate and leisure customers who drive business to hotels globally. The Middle East is an increasingly important outbound travel market, and regional membership in Starwood Preferred Guest, the company’s loyalty program, has increased 140% over the last five years.
“It is hard to overstate the potential for our business in this region of the world. By bringing our executives here and spending time with our partners and local teams, we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime growth opportunity,” said van Paasschen. “I have no doubt that our time spent here will drive future hotel contracts in the region, accelerate Starwood’s position as the most global high-end hotel company and further define our culture.”
Last month Starwood announced that it will increase its Middle East and Africa (MEA) portfolio by more than 60 percent with nearly 50 new hotels set to open over the next five years, adding more than 14,000 guest rooms to the region and creating thousands of local employment opportunities. With 82 operating hotels and over 20 hotels expected to open by the end of 2015, Starwood is on track to reach a milestone 100 hotels across MEA.
“With 80 percent of Starwood's pipeline coming from rapidly growing markets, it’s important for us to remain at the forefront of new travel demands and changing travel patterns,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “The Middle East is experiencing rapid economic growth, a growing middle class and ever greater global connectivity, and the Dubai relocation will help us expand all of our brands across this important region."
The company also announced a comprehensive renovation strategy for its Le Méridien brand, for which Starwood and its ownership groups will invest more than $200 million in the renovations of 13 hotels and resorts in the MEA region over the next 3 years.
Following the company’s successful relocation to China in June 2011, this second leadership move reflects Starwood’s innovative management approach to cultivating a more global culture by understanding, appreciating and leveraging different societal and associate perspectives and approaches to business and hospitality.