Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, that own brands like Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, W Hotels and Luxury Collection, signs up on average a property a week. Last year, it beat its record by signing up 72. In India, Starwood has an ambitious target of 100 hotels by 2015. Hoyt Harper, senior VP-brand management in Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, reveals Starwood's expansion plans for India.
They have 9 different brands and their beauty lies in offering different brands for each travel occasion at different price points. According to Harper, Sheraton is usually their trailblazing brand if they can make a comparison to what they are able to accomplish in China. We started with Sheraton and grew our footprint because of the brand. As we had a strong foothold in the market, we were able to bring in Westin, Four Points by Sheraton and W. When I look at India, Sheraton will help us build a base and create opportunities to grow Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft brands. We are getting ready to open W in India by 2013. We have 34 properties as we speak and we are on target to achieve 50 properties by 2012. We have planned to have 100 hotels, either under development, in operation or contracted by 2015, added Harper.
Harper believes India and China are the fastest growing markets in Asia and the only thing common between the two countries is their population. But there are lot more challenges in the cost of land, real estate and lifestyle in India and that’s the sole reason why it is difficult to compare the pace of growth in India with China. However the biggest advantage in India is its English speaking population. For some eight years, it was a challenge to find the right kind of talent in China, but it's rapidly changing now, adds harper. However Going forward, they will be in a better position to attract more talent to the hospitality industry is what Harper thinks.
They continue to go asset light as they are putting more money on their brands. They make distinctions by categories. They consider the ownership model on finding the right partners with the right capabilities. They don't franchise W or Westin, but two Meridiens have been franchised. Except for Four Points and Aloft, the company doesn't franchise any other brand. “Going forward , we are going to manage all the upper upscale five-star brands. Unlike our competitors, we don't have to carry the baggage of any brand into another brand's positioning. The beauty is they can be positioned independently without getting diluted by any other brand”, says Harper.