China becomes No. 2 market for Starwood Preferred Guest membership

CHINA China continues to be the richest source of new members for Starwood Preferred Guest, according to an analysis of the loyalty program’s enrollment and travel trends.

Chinese enrollment in SPG jumped 58% in 2010 compared to last year, and this year China has risen to become SPG’s second largest base of active members, surpassing the United Kingdom and behind only North America. This record growth is on top of rapid gains in 2009, when SPG saw a 50% increase in members in China, which was then ranked as the fourth largest SPG market.

“China is Starwood’s second largest hotel market with our fastest growing customer base. Just as it is integral to establish our footprint in China, it is critical for Starwood to cultivate loyalty and brand zealots among the Chinese, who will have an increasingly outsized impact on the worldwide travel industry,” says Phil McAveety, executive vice president and chief brand officer.

Nearly one out of two hotel guests at Starwood’s Chinese hotels are SPG members. And while in the past Starwood’s hotels in China were outposts for Western travelers, more than 50% of guests here are Chinese, illustrative of China’s fast growing domestic travel market. Internationally, China is expected to have 100 million outbound travelers by 2015.

“Key ’10-plus-stayers’—the folks most loyal to SPG and our brands—grew 30% this year over last,” says Mark Vondrasek, senior vice president for distribution, loyalty and partnership marketing. “We’re also beginning to see a meaningful uptick in international travel outside of China, which will continue to have a powerful network effect on our hotels around the world.”

While Chinese SPG members are most likely to redeem their points for travel at Starwood hotels in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Nanjing, travel to international destinations is growing. Year to date, SPG has seen a 32% increase in travel outside of China by Chinese SPG members and a 41% increase in travel into the United States and Canada.