Starwood Moves Global HQ to Dubai for One-Month Immersion

As of Sunday, about 10 top executives of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, including president & CEO Frits van Paasschen, began a month-long relocation of the company’s global headquarters from Stamford, Conn., to Dubai.

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

As of Sunday, about 10 top executives of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., including president/CEO Frits van Paasschen, began a month-long relocation of the company’s global headquarters from Stamford, Conn., to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Until April 5, Starwood’s Senior Leadership Team will conduct day-to-day business from Dubai, where they will be joined for varying amounts of time by more than 200 other executives and managers for various meetings, a Starwood spokesperson told Commercial Property Executive.

Among those meetings will be an investor event and Starwood’s first General Managers Summit, of nearly 100 luxury hoteliers from around the world and representing Starwood’s The Luxury Collection, St. Regis and W Hotels brands.

Starwood executives and general managers from the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America will travel to Dubai, almost 7,000 miles and nine time zones from the New York metro area. They will meet with associates, customers, owners and prospective developers in the UAE and also use Dubai as a hub for trips to destinations including Mumbai; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Kuwait.

The month-long immersion follows a similar experience that Starwood conducted in China in 2011. Both aimed at “cultivating a more global culture by understanding, appreciating and leveraging different societal perspectives and approaches to business and hospitality,” according to the company. 

“With 80 percent of Starwood’s pipeline coming from rapidly growing markets, it is simply not possible to lead a truly global business from a boardroom in Connecticut,” van Paasschen said in a release.

The current relocation will be leveraged by social media as a way of involving the entire company, not just the C-level, in the experience, the spokesperson told CPE. A Tumblr feed, “Beyond the Boardroom,” <http://starwoodhotels.tumblr.com> and an Instagram account <http://instagram.com/starwoodbuzz> have been set up for this purpose.

In a similarly wireless way, the spokesperson said, “When we’re in-market, very little time is spent in the office. Part of the value of ‘being there’ is in meeting face-to-face with developers, partners, employees and others, so we’ll spend a lot of time in the field.”

“We build and strengthen invaluable relationships with developers, partners, sovereign wealth funds and associates in the market,” she aded, “and those relationships pay off in many ways.”

“Spending time in China helped us learn a lot that we are now exporting to other markets, including the more mature ones,” the spokesperson said, “for example, the importance of great design, innovations in mobile use and more. The traditional way of thinking is to bring expertise from established markets to emerging ones, but now it is often the other way around.”

“For example, traveling around China, we saw that travelers would book hotel rooms from their mobile devices while they were en route to their destination. This on-the-ground experience helped Starwood accelerate our own investment in our mobile web capabilities,” the spokesperson concluded

 

Starwood touts itself as “the most global high-end hotel company,” and not without reason. The company has 45 hotels and another 30 under development in the Middle East, including 14 hotels and another six in the pipeline in Dubai alone.

It has plans under way to open new W hotels in Amman, Muscat and Abu Dhabi; a second St. Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi; St. Regis properties in Cairo and Amman; and a Luxury Collection hotel in the Emirate of Ajman. Overall, Starwood’s Middle East footprint reportedly is set to grow by about 70 percent over the next five years.