1 in 3 Starwood hotel openings through 2011 to be in China

CHINA Through next year, one out of every three new hotels entering the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide portfolio will be opening in China, including new flagships for eight of its nine brands, the company says.

Starwood has 62 existing hotels in China and a pipeline of 86 more hotels in the country. China is now Starwood’s second largest hotel market in the world, behind only the United States.

“China is one of the world’s fastest growing domestic and outbound travel markets,” says Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood. “Demand continues to outpace supply in China, and there is still a long runway for growth, especially when you consider that China has 171 cities with populations of more than 1 million, most of which do not yet have a major international branded hotel. It is not hard to imagine that we will ultimately have as many hotels in China as we do in the United States, which is more than 450.”

Starwood’s growth in China is illustrative of growth opportunities in other markets throughout Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, van Paasschen says. “Many predict that more than 70% of the world’s growth over the next decade will come from emerging markets, which is consistent with Starwood’s skew towards development in these markets,” he says. “China recognizes that hotels are an essential component of infrastructure growth, and other fast-growing markets are following suit. As the world’s most global hotel company with the strongest presence in emerging markets, these trends work in our favor, and we could not be more bullish on our long-term prospects.”

Starwood’s presence in China dates to 1985 and the debut of The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in Beijing, which was the first internationally-branded hotel in the country. “Starwood’s long legacy in China gave us a considerable head start,” says Miguel Ko, chairman and president of Starwood’s Asia Pacific division. “Today, with more than 30 years of experience in the market, longstanding native Chinese teams and valuable relationships with local owners and developers, this advantage continues to be meaningful.”

Intra-China and Chinese outbound travel is steadily rising, with about half of Starwood’s hotel guests in the country being native Chinese. “The Chinese are beginning to become a major global travel force as well, and by 2015 China will have 100 million outbound travelers, the largest in the world,” says Simon Turner, president of global development for Starwood. “For some perspective, that is more people than visit France each year, which is the number one international tourist destination in the world. When they travel abroad, the Chinese will stay with the hotel brands they know from home, which underscores the significance of our growing footprint of flagship hotels in China and its halo effect on Starwood’s hotels around the world.”

With 31 existing hotels and another 34 in the pipeline, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and leads Starwood’s growth in China. Benefiting from Sheraton’s brand awareness, sibling brand Four Points by Sheraton has 11 hotels and another 14 poised to open, primarily in growing secondary cities and tertiary markets. The Westin brand boasts a pipeline of 13 new hotels set to join its existing portfolio of eight properties. Le Méridien currently features hotels in Qingdao, Chongqing, Xiamen, Shanghai, Shimei Bay, Sheshan and Hong Kong with three additional hotels in the pipeline.

The St. Regis brand has flagships in Beijing and Shanghai and is poised to more than triple its presence with seven more hotels in its China pipeline. Next month, the brand will debut its first resort in Greater China with the opening of The St. Regis Lhasa Resort, Tibet. China’s legendary The Astor Hotel in Tianjin made its debut as the first of four hotels to open within Starwood’s Luxury Collection. W Hotels made its debut in China with the W Hong Kong in 2008 and next year will open in Taipei and Guangzhou, with another three hotels in its pipeline. Starwood’s midscale Aloft brand opened one of its first hotels worldwide in Beijing in 2008, and has seven new hotels slated in the country.