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Starwood Hotels Continues to Focus Growth in India, South Asia
By Claudette Covey
Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced a continued focus on growth in India and South Asia. Starwood's legacy in the region dates back to 1973, and the company currently operates 34 hotels with 24 hotels in the pipeline. It aims to have 100 hotels under operation, development and management contracts signed by 2015 with eight out of nine Starwood brands flying their flag in India. In the past year, Starwood signed 10 new deals in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The company will open The Westin Chennai Velachery, Aloft Ahmedabad SG Road, Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park, Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa and Sheraton Chandigarh Hotel in 2013.
"Already our fourth-largest market, India is comfortably poised to be second only to China in terms of our future global growth. India today is still an ‘under-hoteled' market, and the demand for high-caliber lodging is expected to far exceed current supply for at least the next three to four years," said Stephen Ho, president, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels and Resorts. "As domestic travel increases and Indian travelers continue to demand more sophistication in terms of both quality and experience, we have significant opportunity to grow our brands across the spectrum in gateway cities, tertiary markets as well as in resort destinations."
Rising wealth is helping drive demand for Starwood's upper upscale and luxury brands. Starwood is growing its upper upscale brands like Sheraton, Westin and Le Méridien further into Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) and gateway markets with the signing of Sheraton Greater Noida Hotel, Sheraton Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center, Le Méridien Delhi NCR, Noida and The Westin Delhi NCR Noida. The Le Méridien brand will see a reenergized portfolio with the renovations of Le Méridien Bangalore, Le Méridien Jaipur and Le Méridien Kochi.
"The success of the Westin brand in India as well as the newly built and managed Sheraton, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, has propelled the expansion of these brands into key markets and we are seeing increased traction with the development community," said Dilip Puri, managing director, India, and regional vice president, South Asia.
Today, more people than ever are entering the ranks of the very wealthy and developing a taste for luxury. In the last five years, Starwood has nearly doubled its luxury room count to meet growing global demand for luxury travel. "We have one of the leading luxury footprints in the world with more than 150 luxury hotels under our St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotels brands," said Matthew Fry, senior vice president, acquisitions and development, Starwood Asia Pacific. "More than 90 percent of our luxury pipeline is in emerging markets, reflecting new demand for luxury in new places. With a rising middle class, growing disposable income, an affinity for luxury brands and huge pent-up demand for foreign travel, India is emblematic of the growth we are seeing in regions around the world and key to our global growth plans."
Starwood Hotels and Resorts is geared up to bring its luxury brands St. Regis and W Hotels to India. The W brand will arrive in India in 2014 with the opening of the W Retreat & Spa Goa followed by the W Mumbai, W Noida-Delhi NCR and W Gurgaon WTC, Delhi-NCR. St. Regis will make its debut in India with the opening of The St. Regis Noida, Delhi NCR in 2017. These brands have a strong following around the world, including among Indian luxury travelers. W London was awarded the Favorite New Opening International Hotel by the Conde Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Award last year, and this year The St. Regis Bangkok won the award in the same category.
The company seeks to expand its resort portfolio with the opening of Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa later this year and will double its resort room count in India by the end of 2014. Starwood recently signed The Westin Bekal Resort & Spa in the state of Kerala and already has The Westin Khandala Resort & Spa and Le Méridien Chennai East Coast Resort & Spa under development besides the W Retreat & Spa Goa.
"Starwood has a rich resort portfolio in Asia Pacific with well-known resorts in destinations like Koh Samui, Phuket, Langkawi, and Bali under various luxury and upper upscale brands, and we have seen a lot of outbound travel from India to these destinations," said Nikhil Manchharam, Starwood's vice president of acquisitions and development in South Asia. "In South Asia, Starwood already manages well-established resorts, including The Westin Sohna Resort & Spa and the W and Sheraton in Maldives. India is a land of many unexplored destinations with huge potential for resort development and, as demand for domestic leisure travel increases, we believe there will be increased demand for quality hotels in these locations."
Starwood is looking to accelerate the expansion of its Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft brands, setting its sights on expanding its mid-market brands. The company is focused on tier two cities with hotels currently open and under development such as Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Mysore and Amritsar. Starwood is also venturing into micro markets such as Faridabad, Noida and Gurgaon. "We believe in the opportunities tier two markets provide and have seen that new hotels in new markets create their own demand. As cities evolve and the urban Indian landscape continues to transform, tier two markets will provide opportunities for both upper upscale and for mid-market brands," said Puri.
The company expanded its leadership position in Bangladesh with the signing of Le Méridien Dhaka and the re-entry of Sheraton in Dhaka. Starwood will also make its foray into new markets like Sri Lanka with Four Points by Sheraton Colombo and Sheraton in Colombo, International Airport and Sheraton Colombo Hotel in Colombo. "Given the political stability in the region, South Asia has emerged as the second-fastest-growing market for inbound tourist arrivals, providing many opportunities for development of internationally branded hotels across segments," said Manchharam. "We are continuing to explore opportunities to enter Nepal and Bhutan and strengthen our footprint in the Maldives."
Source: Travel Pulse
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