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Exclusive: Starwood’s Ho positive on 2014

Stephen Ho

In an exclusive column for HM, Starwood’s Asia-Pacific President, Stephen Ho, says the company is expecting another strong year of growth.

We expect another strong year of global growth in 2014, with hotel openings and deal signings across all nine brands in more countries than ever before.

We continue to witness ‘The Age of Great Change’ – the age of global travel revolution where rising wealth across the globe, rapid urbanization and increased in digital connectivity are driving demand for greater travel.

To capitalise on this trend, Starwood will continue to pursue a balanced approached to development, with continued focus in emerging markets such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and we are also seeing opportunities in established markets especially in Australia, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

Starwood expects to open more than 30 hotels in Asia Pacific this year, led by continued growth in China and India. We are seeing tremendous growth opportunities in Australia as record low supply is driving demand for growth.

Starwood will open six hotels in the Pacific – Sheraton Melbourne, Four Points by Sheraton Brisbane, Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort and Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Tokoriki Island, and Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort & Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows – which will mark as Starwood debut to Samoa.

Looking at our performance by the end of Q3 last year and forward bookings into 2014, we are positive that 2014 will continue to be a bright year for Starwood.

Our Q3 earnings reported 9.3% increase in RevPAR for the rest of Asia Pacific (excluding China) with overall occupancy of 71%.

In China, domestic travel will continue to dominate the travel market. Today, 60% of our guests are Chinese travelers and in second tier cities, the percentage is over 75%. Chinese outbound travel is also fueling our growth throughout Asia. Our three luxury brands (St. Regis, W Hotels and The Luxury Collection) are flourishing and we will open four hotels in this category – The St. Regis in Chengdu, two Luxury Collection hotels in Dalian and Hangzhou and W in Beijing.

For rest of Asia Pacific, rising wealth and rapid urbanization will continue to drive greater demand for travel. Infrastructure development will continue to play a key role in economic growth. The new international terminal in Bali should be able to facilitate and welcome more travellers to the island. We have seen this in effects already with announcements of airlines such as Hainan and China Southern Airline to launch new flights to Bali the island to welcome more tourists and we are very well positioned to take advantage of this trend with our 6 operating hotels and 3 hotels under constructions on the island.

Fiji and Maldives are also seeing increased tourism growth and popularity with more direct flights from Hong Kong and Mainland China to both destinations.

For more of Ho’s outlook, see the February 2014 ‘Leaders Forum’ special edition of HM magazine.

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