Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.
White Plains, NY
With more than 500 buildings numbering almost 166,000 hospitality units, Starwood is one of the largest hotel and leisure companies around. And, it’s literally everywhere: The company’s hotel empire includes both luxury and upscale brands (Four Points, Sheraton, St. Regis, and Westin), as well as high-end resorts and hotels through its Luxury Collection, and an impressive chain of W Hotels for the “sophisticated business traveler.” Bouncing back bigger and better following some tough years of recession in the travel industry, Starwood has added a number of properties to its portfolio, with plans to continue. The company’s expansion efforts included the 2005 acquisition of the Le Meridien brand for $225 million. With respect to property disposition, Starwood sold approximately 30 properties to Host Hotels & Resorts earlier this year.
In 2005, Starwood introduced a new brand concept - aloft (which will be the company’s moderately priced, select-service hotels) - and the first hotel is expected to open in 2007. Starwood describes aloft as “a hotel of new heights, an oasis where you least expect it, a spirited neighborhood outpost, a haven at the side of the road. Bringing a cozy harmony of modern elements to the classic American on-the-road tradition, aloft offers a sassy, refreshing, ultra-effortless alternative for both the business and leisure traveler.” This month, aloft will become the world’s first hotel brand to place a 3-D, computer-generated replica of a hotel inside the popular online game Second Life. (Personally, we can’t wait to see this concept - the game and the hotel itself. How about you?)
The foundation of Starwood’s business travel, according to company reports, comprises a number of strengths. Strong brands and brand recognition continue to capture market share; the company aggressively cultivates new customers while maintaining loyalty among the world’s most active travelers. Starwood rewards its loyal guests - more than 27 million members since its inception in 1999 - through its Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG) program. The program is distinctive in that it has a policy of no-blackout dates and no-capacity controls (which is, after all, quite a reward).
In addition to a significant and well-positioned presence in top markets, Starwood controls a very distinguished and diversified group of hotel properties. And, don’t forget scale: As one of the largest hotel and leisure companies focusing on the luxury and upscale full-service lodging market, Starwood has the scale to support its core marketing and reservation functions. Yet it offers the diversity in brands and market segments to ensure continued strength well into the future. Reservations, anyone?