Frits van Paasschen, Starwood President & CEO
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. today announced the beginning of a month-long relocation of its global headquarters from Stamford, CT to Dubai. From now until April 5th, Starwood President & CEO Frits van Paasschen and the company’s top executives will conduct day-to-day business from Dubai, an increasingly important global destination and travel hub. 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 perspectives and approaches to business and hospitality.
“With 80 percent of Starwood’s pipeline coming from rapidly growing markets, it is simply not possible to lead a truly global business from a boardroom in Connecticut,” said van Paasschen. “Rising wealth and ever greater global connectivity are creating a once-in-a-lifetime growth opportunity for our business – by fueling new demand, changing travel patterns, and entirely new travel markets. Dubai epitomizes this changing face of travel, and we expect this relocation will deepen our relationships with partners, associates and customers. Just as with our one-month relocation to China in 2011, our time in-market will spark new ideas that will fortify our position as the most global high-end hotel company.”
During the course of the relocation, more than 200 Starwood executives and GMs from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America will travel to Dubai as the company runs day-to-day operations almost 7,000 miles and a nine-hour time zone away from its usual HQ outside New York City. The team will meet with associates, customers, owners and prospective developers in the UAE and also take advantage of Dubai’s location for business travel to destinations including Mumbai, Addis Ababa, Jeddah, Dushanbe and Kuwait.
Dubai Illustrative of “New Golden Age of Travel”
Dubai is a natural choice for Starwood’s second month-long senior leadership relocation as the city is situated eight hours from two-thirds of the world’s population and is a global gateway at the crossroads of East and West and the developed and rapidly growing economies. The Middle East continues to evolve as an international business and leisure travel hub with Dubai now home to many multinational corporations, consultants, banks and university campuses. In 2012, Dubai International Airport counted approximately 58 million visitors, a number which is expected to grow at annual rates above ten percent, and the airport is expected to be the world’s largest in terms of international passenger traffic by 2015.
“Globalization is accelerating new trade patterns, capital flows and wealth creation: this translates to more people from more places traveling to more destinations than ever before,” said van Paasschen. “We are on the cusp of a new Golden Age of Travel, and Dubai is at the epicenter of this sea change.”
Along with changing travel patterns, Starwood has seen a significant increase in demand for luxury in all corners of the world, including the Middle East. As the most global high-end hotel company with nearly twice as many rooms as Marriott or Hilton in emerging markets, Starwood is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the record number of people entering the ranks of the very wealthy and developing a taste for luxury.
With the opening of W Doha in 2009, Starwood introduced a new luxury hotel category in the Middle East, and plans are underway to open new W hotels in Amman, Muscat, and Abu Dhabi as well as two W properties in Dubai. Following the W brand’s debut, Starwood introduced its St. Regis brand into the Middle East with the 2011 opening of The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (Abu Dhabi). St. Regis has since opened in Doha and will this year unveil a second St. Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi, located on the Corniche. Future St. Regis openings in the region include The St. Regis Cairo, The St. Regis Amman, and The St. Regis Dubai. Starwood also continues to grow its Luxury Collection brand in the UAE and will debut in the Emirate of Ajman in 2014.
Diverse Viewpoints Needed to Succeed Globally
Starwood’s roots in the Middle East date back nearly 50 years. This first-mover advantage has put Starwood in a leadership position in the region, with 45 hotels and another 30 under development. In Dubai alone, Starwood has 14 hotels and another six in the pipeline. That makes Dubai Starwood’s second largest market in the world behind New York City. The company’s Middle East footprint is set to grow by about 70 percent over the next five years thanks to Starwood’s brand strength, local know-how and long-standing relationships.
“Working day-to-day in a different market allows you to see the world through a different lens,” said van Paasschen. “The insights that come from experiences like this move make us more agile in today’s rapidly changing world. As a company, we make better and faster decisions thanks to the diverse viewpoints of our leaders and associates. These trips allow us to listen firsthand to what our associates around the world have to say.”