October 16, 2009 // Franchising.com // HONG KONG – China has become the richest source of new, loyal travelers for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT), according to an analysis on the enrollment and travel trends of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members. The results underscore previous reports by the World Tourism Organization that forecast China as the world's largest market for inbound and domestic tourism by 2015.
According to the analysis, Chinese enrollment in SPG jumped 50 percent in 2009 compared to last year, and SPG members now make up roughly half the occupancy of Starwood hotels in China. The rapid growth has resulted in China's rise to become the SPG program's fourth largest base of active members, behind only the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
At Elite levels, SPG members in China are 94 percent active in the program – the highest rate globally for the group. Further to that, the SPG program's most significant growth area in China is in the category of guests who stay more than 10 times a year, which has grown more than 40 percent year over year. The growth in this segment is unprecedented compared to global averages and supports the strong engagement of our most loyal guests in China with Starwood and SPG.
"The Starwood Preferred Guest program has a universal appeal that translates around the globe, but the way our Chinese members engage and take advantage of the program benefits is unique to them," said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO of Starwood. "While accruing Starpoints® to earn Free Night awards across Starwood's range of luxury, upper upscale and select service hotels is a key benefit, our Chinese members are also particularly interested in the status accorded by the program and the allure of VIP access. The ability to use Starpoints to redeem instant awards such as room upgrades, spa treatments and other hotel services is one of the most appealing features of the SPG program in China."
The analysis also revealed Chinese SPG members are most likely to redeem their points for domestic travel at Starwood hotels in Hong Kong, Sanya, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Hangzhou. International travel was largely confined to Asia with most popular redemption properties located in Taipei, Taiwan; Singapore; Bali, Indonesia; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The most favored Starwood brands for redemption are the St. Regis, Le Meridien, Westin and Four Points by Sheraton. But Sheraton – Starwood's global powerhouse – is the overall brand of choice, capturing 62 percent of Chinese SPG member redemption stays.
To meet the needs of the growing Chinese travel market and SPG members, Starwood is working with its proven development partners to more than double its presence to 100 high-caliber hotels in China by 2012. China is now home to the largest number of Starwood hotels outside of North America, and it has the largest pipeline of new hotels outside of the United States. This year alone, Starwood has signed 18 new deals in China. And within two years Starwood expects to have a presence in Shanghai that rivals its existing footprint in New York City, where the company has more than a dozen hotels and growing.
Starwood opened the country's largest dedicated hospitality Customer Contact Center (CCC) in Guangzhou in July. The new center, Starwood's first in China, employs more than 100 employees trained to assist Chinese guests traveling within China as well as to Starwood's nearly 1,000 properties around the world.
"The primary objective of our CCC in China is to build deep and loyal relationships with our guests and customers," said Mark Vondrasek, SVP, Distribution, Loyalty & Partnerships for Starwood. "Setting up a CCC in China means we can be close to our guests, can understand the culture better and take care of their distinct needs, which will ultimately result in gaining share as the Chinese travel domestically and abroad."
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with 966 properties in more than 100 countries and 145,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood Hotels is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences with the following internationally renowned brands: St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Four Points® by Sheraton, and the recently launched Aloft®, and Element SM. Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit www.starwoodhotels.com.
Note: This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities regulations. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated at the time the forward-looking statements are made. Further results, performance and achievements may be affected by general economic conditions, including the duration and severity of any global or regional economic downturns, the availability of financing alternatives at acceptable terms, the impact of war and terrorist activity, business and financing conditions, foreign exchange fluctuations, cyclicality of the real estate (including residential) and the hotel and vacation ownership businesses, operating risks associated with the hotel, vacation ownership and residential businesses. These risks and uncertainties are presented in detail in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Further, there can be no assurance that agreements will be entered into for the hotels in the Company's pipeline and, if entered into, the timing of any agreement and the opening of the related hotel. Although we believe the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, we can give no assurance that our expectations will be attained or that results will not materially differ. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.