Starwood Hotels and Resorts has entered an intensive period of new openings for its St Regis and Luxury Collection brands, with upcoming properties including the St Regis Abu Dhabi, and the ITC Grand Chola Chennai.
Speaking to Business Traveller, Paul James, the group’s Global Leader for St Regis and Luxury Collection said that St Regis is scheduled to expand to 40 properties by 2015, a doubling of its portfolio in five years.
The St Regis brand has its origins in the St Regis New York, built in 1904 by American businessman John Jacob Astor IV and located on Fifth Avenue.
The hotel was bought by Sheraton Hotels in the 1960s, which in turn was acquired by Starwood in the late 1990s, when the property became the flagship of the newly formed St Regis Hotels and Resorts brand.
Since then Starwood has added 30 St Regis hotels worldwide, including The Lanesborough in London’s Knightsbridge, and the recently opened St Regis Doha, pictured below (for a review of the property click here).
St Regis competes alongside luxury brands including Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, the latter of which James freely admits is “the owner of the market”.
When asked how St Regis aims to compete effectively with the likes of Four Seasons, James said that it was a question that “keeps me awake at night” but added that he is confident of achieving success through “attention to detail, after detail, after detail”.
To this end the brand’s signature butler service went through a revamp in 2009 / 2010, with all butlers being retrained to achieve consistency across the portfolio. James said research was also carried out into how the service should work in markets like Japan, where at the St Regis Osaka (which opened in 2010) the culture means that butlers are more likely to help with “handling your stay rather than your packing”.
Upcoming properties include the St Regis Abu Dhabi, scheduled to open in the autumn and joining the emirate’s existing St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, which opened at the end of last year (click here for more details).
There are a total of 13 St Regis hotels currently in development, including Mauritius (set to open in September 2012), Kuala Lumpur (2014), New Delhi (2016), and Dubai (2017).
Meanwhile Starwood’s Luxury Collection offering has now grown to over 75 properties worldwide. Again the brand has its roots in the group’s takeover of Sheraton, with a rebrand of the ITT Sheraton Luxury collection of hotels.
The Luxury Collection is a portfolio of independent properties plugged into the global might of Starwood’s reservations system and loyalty programme, a concept which has been replicated more recently by the launch of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Collection.
Properties include Turnberry Resort in Scotland, which joined the Luxury Collection in 2009 following a US$65 million refurbishment programme, and Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville, which has also recently completed a revamp.
New hotels set to join the collection include ITC Grand Chola, a 600-room palace-style property set to open in Chennai this August (external rendering below), and Twelve at Hengshan, a modern 171-room hotel in the Zuhui district of Shanghai, also set to be unveiled in August.
The collection also operates a ‘Global Explorers’ programme, aimed at “celebrating the world’s most enchanting destinations through the travel stories of the world’s leading cultural voices”. Explorers include photographer Andrea Fazzari, mixologist Greg Seider, and jewellery designer Waris Ahluwalia.
Ahluwalia has created a pop-up restaurant space at the Sheraton Park Tower in London’s Knightsbridge, celebrating the cooking of Bukhara, an Indian restaurant at the ITC Maurya, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Delhi. The temporary venue is operating for two weeks from today until June 1, and has been so popular that reservations are now sold out for the full run.
For more information on the St Regis and Luxury Collection brands, visit starwoodhotels.com.
Report by Mark Caswell