New Brands, Asian Markets Help Drive Starwood’s Aggressive Expansion Plans

Recession? Market correction? What’s that? Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s just-released summary of their current expansion plans shows anything but pessimism. The chain, owner of such high-profile brands as Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and Le Meridien, currently has in the pipeline 500 hotels totaling 120,000 rooms. Its 900th hotel will open this year, and the company expects to increase its portfolio by 50 percent over the next five years. Part of that growth will come from the opening this year of Starwood’s first hotels in its Aloft and Element brands. Built in a high-ceilinged loft style, the Aloft properties are aimed at “youthful-minded travelers,” and more than 70 are in the pipeline, in 27 states and five other countries.The Element brand, an offshoot of Westin, is Starwood’s first foray into the extended-stay segment. Fourteen properties are in the pipeline, in the U.S. and Canada. Starwood’s most aggressive growth will be in the Asia/Pacific market, where the company plans to increase its portfolio by more than 70 percent. More than half of the 70 Starwood hotels under development in that region are in China, primarily Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton properties. Ten hotels are in the pipeline in India, where Starwood already has 20 properties. Ten new Starwood hotels will be opening this year in Europe, the Middle East or Africa, with nearly 50 scheduled to open by 2012. On the upscale front, the W hotels brand will be tripling its current base, to more than 60 properties. The Westin brand, which recently opened its 150th hotel, anticipates totaling 210 by 2010, including properties in Beijing, New Delhi, Dubai and Munich. And the core Sheraton brand will feature 50,000 new or renovated rooms in North America alone by 2009. There are 60 new properties planned in major U.S. cities over the next two and a half years.