Starwood Hotels and Resorts plans to boost its portfolio of W hotels to 60 by 2015, following the launch of its 42nd property, the W Paris Opéra.
The group opened the latest European property under its luxury design-led brand in February and held the official launch event last week, which Business Traveller attended.
Housed in an 1870s Haussman building on Rue Meyerbeer in Paris’s ninth arrondissement, opposite the Opéra Garnier house, the property has 91 rooms and suites and is a ten-minute drive from Gare du Nord.
Its design is based around the idea of “the Spark” – inspired by Paris’s nickname, the City of Lights – and aims to combine “New York’s dynamism and never-ending energy with the sophistication and culture of Paris”.
Black walls featuring a backlit dotted pattern that changes colour are scattered through the rooms and public spaces, while rooms have tongue-in-cheek, Parisian-inspired illustrations, throws and cushions.
As previously reported, the property also features a restaurant headed by two-Michelin starred chef Sergi Arola. The first French venture for the Spaniard, it showcases his “pica pica” concept of sharing plates (see picture below).
At the launch, Arola described the concept as “much more complex than tapas – more a philosophy of life. We try to make it a table of interchange and friendship.” For a full review of the hotel, see the May issue of Business Traveller.
Roeland Vos, Starwood’s president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told Business Traveller: “We’ve picked up pace tremendously. This is the 42nd hotel and we’re expecting to have 60 by 2015 – those are under construction and coming out of the ground in places such as Bangkok, Singapore, Guangzhou, Milan and Verbier.”
Vos said the planning process was more selective than simply putting a W into every major destination: “We’ll only go into a city if it is right for the brand – it has to be able to bring a W to life. There are a lot of cities that would aspire having a W but where the likelihood of us going in is small. They need to be cool – a fashion city or a design centre, for example.” Places he said the brand would like to open in were Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam and Moscow.
On the subject of where the W Paris would sit in comparison with the city’s other high-end properties, Vos said: “I think this hotel will find its own space. Of course there is a lot of competition in Paris but I believe with the demand we’ve already seen that the hotel will stand on its own… There’s plenty of traditional luxury properties in the city if you want that, but for this kind of modern luxury experience there’s not so much.”
He said he expected the property to attract business people working in areas such as banking and fashion as well as “high-end tourists”.
Looking at the wider Starwood portfolio, Vos said: “Last year we opened 81 properties and signed about 120 new deals. We expect that trend to continue and 2012 looks good. We’ll see growth in all of our brands.”
New or upcoming properties include Le Méridien Istanbul Etiler, which opened in January, the St Regis Doha, which launched last week (see online news March 28), and the St Regis Abu Dhabi, opening on the Corniche towards the end of the year. That property joins the St Regis Saadiyat Island, which opened in the emirate at the end of 2011 (see online news January 12).
Several European properties in the Luxury Collection have been undergoing full restoration. The Alfonso XIII in Seville reopened in March, Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian will follow in July, the Prince de Gaulle in Paris will reopen by early next year, and the Gritti Palace in Venice is also closed for renovation.
Of the Sheraton brand, Vos said: “It’s doing very well. In many cities it’s the first brand to go in – there is a lot of demand in emerging markets.” He said some US$1 billion was being invested in the brand by Starwood and the properties’ owners, “reinvigorating hotels and opening new ones”.
Some 20 new Sheratons will open this year, while Edinburgh, Rome and Cairo are among the properties being renovated, with the Edinburgh property set to reopen this month.
As for Aloft, Vos said: “We launched the brand in 2008 right in the middle of the economic crisis and despite that managed to open 50 in the past two to three years. We are now looking for partners to roll it out at a faster pace.” He said the company was in discussions in the UK, Germany, Russia and Saudi Arabia. “Some cities that could not handle a W could handle an Aloft,” he said.
Vos added that a lot of Starwood’s growth was out of emerging markets such as China, India, Russia, Brazil and Africa. In China, the group will have 100 hotels open by this year with another 100 in construction. Some 12 Sheraton hotels are set to open in the country in 2012, along with six Westin properties.
Vos said that as people from those countries travelled more widely, the company would benefit. “Once the Chinese come this way we’ll get more than our fair share,” he said.
Like Hilton Worldwide, Starwood is rolling out a special programme for Chinese visitors in selected hotels, with services such as Chinese-speaking staff, breakfast items, translated menus, slippers and websites in Chinese. Le Meridien Piccadilly in London was the pilot hotel for the scheme and it is being rolled out at the Sheraton Park Lane.
Vos reported “a solid pipeline of deals” in Russia and 17 properties to open across Africa in the next three years. “Africa is a growing market and I think you’ll see a lot of activity in the next five to ten years,” he said. The group will also be adding 30 more hotels in the Middle East in the next three years.
Report by Michelle Mannion