Exclusive by James Wilkinson
It’s been a big week for Starwood, with the company signing a W Brisbane hotel to bring the hip brand back to Australia in 2018.
To find out more about the signing and plans for the brand going forward, HM spoke exclusively to Starwood’s Director of Acquisitions and Development – Pacific Region, Andrew Taylor.
HM: Andrew, there has been a huge momentum swing for W hotels in the last few years… did that play a role in this deal?
AT: Yes, W Hotels is experiencing great global growth at the moment, especially across Asia Pacific, so it was only a matter of time before we launched W Hotels in Australia. In fact, W Brisbane is one of 15 hotels set to open in the Asia Pacific region before 2019. Likewise when you consider the enormous success of the W brand across key markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bali, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Maldives etc, it is clear that it is a game changer for the market.
HM: What kind of momentum will that now generate for future W projects in Australia?
AT: Having a presence in Australia will provide a strong foundation for continued expansion across the nation. We have been pursuing opportunities in Sydney and Melbourne but further developments will depend on us securing the right location for the brand and the right partner. With all of the W developments, a strong synergy to its surroundings is vital.
You could say that there has been a movement in Australia in recent times towards ‘boutique’ brands and I think that the market will sit up and take notice of the way in which Starwood manages W, as the world’s leading lifestyle Hotel brand. The market will be able to see this from the narrative and way in which we launch this in to the Australian market.
HM: There has been a lot of talk about the W Melbourne project in recent months… what’s the latest with that development?
AT: As you may have heard, the minister introduced an interim height control that will sit in place for 12 months. Clearly, we are a little disappointed with this outcome given that we felt the site at 20-30 Bourke Street was fitting for a W Hotel, given its iconic location in the Bourke Hill precinct. That said, we are planning to continue to work closely with the State and Local Government in Melbourne as we still see a lot of potential in the Melbourne market.
HM: And maybe Sydney next?
AT: Starwood has continued to pursue W opportunities in Sydney and in recent months we have considered several options. There is a strong desire by Starwood to bring the W brand back to Sydney when the timing and partnership is right, but we are also going to make sure that the location and design of the Hotel ticks all of the boxes. Given the performance of our other Starwood hotels in Sydney, I have every confidence that we will not be waiting too long before the W Sydney deal is done!
HM: As a company, Starwood has seen phenomenal growth across most of your brands in the last 12 months… which brands do you see as the biggest in demand over the coming year?
AT: Absolutely right. Starwood is expanding at a rapid pace and W Brisbane joins a pipeline of four hotels set to open in Australia before 2019, including Four Points by Sheraton Melbourne Docklands, Aloft Perth Rivervale, The Westin Perth and W Brisbane.
I believe we will continue to see strong demand for Starwood’s select service brands, Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton. We attribute this largely to the simple fact that our brands are well defined and positioned but remain unrepresented in a number of key markets, and for the fact that there are strong returns on offer for the developers and investors who are playing in this segment of the market.
HM: So why W? What’s the sales pitch that brought this great brand back to Australia?
AT: W Hotels is unlike any other luxury hotel brand on the market. It redefines luxury with innovative design, signature amenities and unique style, designed to cater for the next generation of luxury travellers. The owner wanted to bring this new level of luxury and service to Brisbane and we felt the brand’s passion for cutting edge design, fashion and music is well suited to a progressive and vibrant city like Brisbane.