By Alex Girda, Associate Editor
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, one of the leading international hotel and leisure companies, celebrated an important milestone, the passing of the 10o-hotel mark in its second-largest market outside the United States. The company now has 103 hotels open and in operation there, a tally it expects to double in the near future. One hundred signed hotel deals are currently on standby for Greater China, the company announced at its Asia Pacific Investor Day, held at the Sheraton Shanghai Hongku Hotel.
This year has already been busy for the hotel owner and operator, with 11 properties opened in the Chinese market, and it plans to unveil another 13 hospitality properties by the end of the year. The brand traces its success back to its pioneer-like opening of Beijing’s The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in 1985. An aggressive expansion strategy in the growing market and the country’s accelerated economic development contributed to the fast-paced expansion that followed.
According to Simon Turner, Starwood’s president of global development, the company currently has “more high-end hotels in China today than any of our competitors,” a position it hopes to strengthen through “the record number of new hotels we have in our pipeline.”
Leading the charge for the hospitality firm’s Asian market growth is the Sheraton Hotels brand, which, according to current projections, is set to reach 90 hotels by 2016 in Greater China alone. The cities of Changbaishan, Dalian, Huzhou, Hefei, Jiaozhou, Fuzhou and Macao are each set to receive a Sheraton hotel by the end of 2012, as well. The Sheraton Macao, Cotai Central, will be the area’s largest hotel and will feature 3,863 rooms. The first phase of the massive development is planned for a September opening, with full operational status achieved by the end of first quarter 2013. It will include 160,000 square feet of meeting space, with an additional 53,000 square feet available in the Cotai Central complex; leisure facilities will include three restaurants, poolside cafes and the world’s largest Sheraton Club.
Starwood’s Westin and Le Meridien brands will also be expanded in the Chinese market, with 11 and eight facilities, respectively. Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Chongqing, Xiamen, Shimei Bay, Sheshan, Taipei and Hong Kong are on the list for the two hotel flags.
With the company now nearing a 30-year involvement in China, it has established a network that has allowed it to streamline employee recruitment, with 38,000 associates currently employed in Greater China. Based on current projections, the company expects to create around 10,000 local jobs per year as it continues its 23 hotels-per-year expansion pace. Starwood figures indicate that the number of Chinese associates with managerial-level activities has reached 2,577.