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Starwood CEO Predicts Growth in IndiaApril 6, 2010 By: George Dooley
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. said its on track with plans to grow its existing portfolio of 26 hotels in India 60 percent by 2013. The news comes as Starwood’s president and CEO, Frits van Paasschen, and the company’s leadership team, embark on a two week tour of the country to meet with hotel owners, developers and team members.
“India is a key focus of our expansion efforts, in large part, because it is a market that today is relatively under-hoteled,” said van Paasschen. “As a point of perspective, consider that India with a population of one billion people has just 100,000 hotel rooms, while New York City alone has roughly 80,000 hotel rooms.”
Starwood’s legacy in India began in 1973, when its Sheraton brand debuted in Mumbai. The company has since grown the portfolio to 26 hotels under its Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection and Le Méridien brands – making Starwood the largest upper-upscale and luxury US-based hotel operator.
Looking ahead, Starwood and its partners have another 15 hotels under development in India – including six Aloft hotels – three of which are slated to open this year. In the process of opening these hotels, Starwood continues to help build infrastructure and create career opportunities. In fact, its new hotel openings from 2007 until the end of 2010 will have created more than 4,000 new jobs, Starwood says.
Notably, India trails only China in terms of future growth numbers for the company within Asia Pacific. And Asia Pacific represents the company’s largest growth market.
“Inviting comparisons between India and China can be dangerous, but we do see some commonalities,” added van Paasschen. “If you recall, the world believed that China was the place of the future for 20 years before it really saw an economic boom, and we feel the same way about India. All signs and trends we’re seeing show us that India in the next 10 years is where you want to be, and we are proud to have established our presence here almost 40 years ago.”
In terms of international visitors, India remains a relatively undeveloped travel market, with approximately five million inbound travelers each year, versus China’s more than 50 million. However, the rise of India’s middle class has led to a notable increase in domestic travel, while the influx of outsourcing contracts – including Starwood’s – is expected to create a surge in international tourism.
“India is one of the most promising markets within Asia Pacific, with GDP estimates topping seven percent for the next two years and a consumer market expected to rank as the world’s fifth largest by 2025,” said Miguel Ko, chairman & president of Starwood’s Asia Pacific Division. “This relatively underdeveloped hotel market is fertile ground for our high-caliber lifestyle brands and we look forward to further establishing our presence here.”