GURGAON, India—Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced a continued focus on growth in India and South Asia. The company currently operates 34 hotels with 24 hotels in the pipeline. It aims to have 100 hotels under operation, development and management contracts signed by 2015 with eight out of nine Starwood brands flying their flag in India.
In the past year Starwood signed 10 new deals in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The company will open The Westin Chennai Velachery, Aloft Ahmedabad SG Road, and Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park, Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa and Sheraton Chandigarh Hotel in 2013.
“Already our fourth largest market, India is comfortably poised to be second only to China in terms of our future global growth. India today is still an ‘under-hoteled’ market, and the demand for high-caliber lodging is expected to far exceed current supply for at least the next three to four years. As domestic travel increases and Indian travelers continue to demand more sophistication in terms of both quality and experience, we have significant opportunity to grow our brands across the spectrum in gateway cities, tertiary markets as well as in resort destinations,” said Stephen Ho, Ppresident Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels and Resorts.
Rising wealth is helping drive demand for Starwood’s Upper Upscale and Luxury brands. Starwood is growing its upper upscale brands like Sheraton, Westin and Le Meridien further into Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) and gateway markets with the signing of Sheraton Greater Noida Hotel, Sheraton Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center, Le Méridien Delhi NCR, Noida and The Westin Delhi NCR Noida. Le Méridien brand will see a reenergized portfolio with the renovations of Le Méridien Bangalore, Le Méridien Jaipur and Le Méridien Kochi.
“The success of the Westin brand in India as well as the newly built and managed Sheraton, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, has propelled the expansion of these brands into key markets and we are seeing increased traction with the development community,” said Dilip Puri, managing director India and regional vice president South Asia.
In the last five years, Starwood has also nearly doubled its luxury room count to meet growing global demand for luxury travel. The company is geared to bring its luxury brands St Regis and W Hotels to India. The W brand will arrive in India in 2014 with the opening of the W Retreat & Spa Goa followed by the W Mumbai, W Noida-Delhi NCR and W Gurgaon WTC, Delhi-NCR. St. Regis will make its debut in India with the opening of The St. Regis Noida, Delhi NCR in 2017.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts seeks to expand its resort portfolio with the opening of Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa later this year and will double its resort room count in India by the end of 2014. Starwood recently signed The Westin Bekal Resort & Spa in the state of Kerala and already has The Westin Khandala Resort & Spa and Le Meridien Chennai East Coast Resort & Spa under development.
The company is also looking to accelerate the expansion of its Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft brands, setting its sights on expanding its mid-market brands. Starwood is focused on tier 2 cities with hotels currently open and under development such as Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Mysore, and Amritsar. Starwood is also venturing into micro markets such as Faridabad, Noida, and Gurgaon.
“We believe in the opportunities tier 2 markets provide and have seen that new hotels in new markets create their own demand. As cities evolve and the urban Indian landscape continues to transform, tier 2 markets will provide opportunities for both Upper Upscale and for Mid-Market brands,” said Puri.
To support its growth in the region Starwood opened its ninth global customer contact center 18 months ago in Gurgaon as an outsourced operation run by a third party. This month, Starwood assumed full and complete responsibility for its customer contact center operations in India. The new center is located next to the Starwood India Regional Office at the Vatika Business Park, Gurgaon. This change is the result of a comprehensive review of the organization’s long term strategic plan and how the CCC can better support upcoming initiatives as well as growth in South Asia.
“Over the past 18 months, we have gained deep and broad insights into local customer behaviors and preferences and learned how to navigate in the highly developed and competitive call center/BPO industry in India. Our operations have also developed strong partnerships with our hotels in the region and have been working collaboratively to increase sales and build customer loyalty. These actions will position us well for greater success and reinforce Starwood’s commitment to support aggressive expansion plans in the region,” said Patricia Neo, vice president, customer contact center, Asia Pacific, for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.