SHANGHAI, Jul 11, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- 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, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) 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 75 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."
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:
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. For more information please visit www.starwoodhotels.com/personalizedtravel.
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:
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."
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.
Starwood properties featuring the Starwood Personalized Travel program are:
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with 1,051 properties in 100 countries and territories with 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(R), The Luxury Collection(R), W(R), Westin(R), Le Méridien(R), Sheraton(R), Four Points(R) by Sheraton, and the recently launched Aloft(R), and Element SM. The company boasts one of the industry's leading loyalty programs, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), allowing members to earn and redeem points for room stays, room upgrades and flights, with no blackout dates. 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.
SOURCE: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.