Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts
As one of the world’s fastest growing travel markets, with 100 million outbound travelers expected by 2015, China will play an outsized role in global travel within the next decade. To prepare for this growing force of new travelers, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, announced today the launch of Starwood Personalized Travel – a program of initiatives designed to serve the unique preferences of Chinese travelers. Debuting at 19 Starwood hotels in gateway cities around the globe, Starwood Personalized Travel offers a variety of simple, yet meaningful touches that matter most to the Chinese guest, including in-room tea kettles, slippers, translated welcome materials and on-site translation services. Restaurant menus will also be made available in Chinese and feature familiar favorites like congee – a popular Chinese breakfast delicacy.
The launch of the new program coincides with the conclusion of the unprecedented month-long relocation of the company’s entire Senior Leadership Team to China, and underscores Starwood’s dedication to China which recently became its second largest hotel market outside of the U.S. and its fastest growing. With 74 hotels in China and nearly 100 in the pipeline, Starwood is the largest operator of high end hotels here, and will open one hotel in China every two weeks throughout 2011.
“As Chinese travelers begin to travel beyond their borders en masse, they, like their Western counterparts before them, will gravitate to the hotel brands they know from home, and with Starwood’s leading footprint in China, this gives us a great advantage,” said Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “Just as our hotels in China have historically catered to American and European travelers with familiar amenities from home, now our hotels globally will provide the same services to Chinese travelers.”
New Program Launches in Gateway Cities such as Mexico City, New York & Paris
In the first phase of the programs launch, 19 Starwood hotels in gateway cities around the world now feature Starwood Personalized Travel with plans to roll it out across all Starwood hotels and resorts by the end of 2012. The new program, developed in partnership with Starwood’s Chinese executive team includes:
In-hotel Chinese Specialist – From a warm welcome upon arrival to a fond farewell, an in-hotel specialist will assist Chinese guests at all participating hotels with everything from translation assistance to facilitating transportation.
Comforts of Home – Anticipating the needs of our Chinese guests, each hotel has tea kettles, slippers, instant noodles and toiletries either in-room or available upon request.
Translated Collateral - Upon arrival, guests receive a packet of local area information — shopping, sightseeing and key hotel information — translated into Chinese.
Familiar Foods - Hotel restaurants have Chinese-friendly menu items like congee, noodles and rice.
Starwood properties now offering these services include Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers; W New York - Times Square; Le Méridien Piccadilly, London; Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers, Mexico City; Westin Paris - Vendôme; Westin Tokyo, W Seoul Walkerhill; Sheraton Waikiki, Westin St. Francis, San Francisco and Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel & Convention Center.
Chinese Travelers Seek Out Starwood Brands Abroad
Starwood hotels around the world are benefiting from its long established presence in China. In 2010 Starwood hotels in gateway cities around the world saw double and triple digit growth year-over-year by Chinese travelers:
Chinese business at the W New York – Times Square grew 173% and Chinese business at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Southern California increased 140%.
Latin America is also benefiting from the rise in outbound travel from China. Business from Chinese guests has grown by over 370% at the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel in Mexico City, 264% at the Park Tower, Buenos Aires and 115% at the Sheraton Buenos Aires.
In Starwood properties across Europe, Italy and France remain two of the top destinations with record new Chinese visitors at The Westin Excelsior, Rome, The Westin Paris – Vendôme and Le Méridien Piccadilly, which almost doubled its Chinese bookings.
U.S. Needs Smarter Visa Policy to Take Advantage of Influx of New Global Travelers
As Chinese outbound travel continues to rise, the potential for the U.S. to win visitors from China, the fastest growing outbound market in the world, is curtailed by the current entry requirements and the laborious process Chinese travelers face obtaining U.S. visas. “The U.S. is the top international destination of choice for Chinese travelers and needs to better capitalize on profound travel trends from China and other markets like Brazil and India. Yet we make it incredibly difficult for travelers to visit. By instituting a smarter visa policy, we can stimulate the U.S. economy and in turn create more than a million new jobs,” said van Paasschen. “Visa reform doesn’t require building infrastructure and is in fact totally self funding – this is about opening the door a little wider to make it easier for global outbound travelers to visit the United States.”
The Chinese are Starwood’s Fastest Growing Loyal Travelers
China is not only Starwood’s second largest hotel market, but also the fastest growing base of loyal customers. Chinese enrollment in Starwood Preferred Guest membership grew 71% and in 2010 became SPG’s second largest base of active members, surpassing the United Kingdom and behind only North America.
To meet this growing demand, Starwood opened the largest Customer Contact Center of any international hotel company operating in China. Located in Guangzhou, the center opened in 2009 and employs more than 160 associates to support Chinese-speaking customers traveling to Starwood’s more than 1,050 hotels around the world. Starwood is also the only hospitality company in China that provides 24-hour customer support, 365 days a year, for its Chinese-speaking customers.