Starwood hints at Le Meridien comeback to Aus

Starwood hints at Le Meridien comeback to Aus

Leading luxury hotel chain Starwood are continually looking to expand its presence in Australia across its range of brands taking advantage of its asset-light strategy.

Starwood senior vice president, sales – Asia Pacific, Alison Taylor told Travel Weekly there was a “definite” possibility the group would bring in more brands into the region within three to five years, but would make announcements “once contracts are done”.

Taylor said the company had a dedicated development team in Sydney to look into conversions or seek out new properties, and was driven through an asset-light strategy globally.

The move comes after a record sale price for Sydney’s five-star Sheraton on the Park sold for A$463 million to Chinese-firm Sunshine Insurance Group in November 2014, though still managed and operated as a Sheraton under a long-term management contract.

“We will continue to divest properties and our core is as a management company, which works best,” Taylor confirmed.

“(An) asset light (strategy) allows us to look at opportunities … we’re looking to expand all our brands equally and will have the funds for acquisitions.”

Brands being considered include bringing back Le Méridien, which is no longer present in the country after its previous property was taken over and branded as an InterContinental Melbourne Rialto. Its six-star St Regis and eco-conscious Element Hotels is also being considered for Australia following a major push of the brands in Southeast Asia.

The group confirmed last year it would bring its “next generation” Aloft brand to Perth Rivervale in late 2016 and the W brand to Brisbane in 2018.

“2015 is another exciting year for us with continuous spotlight on Asia Pacific. We continue to grow our footprint in both cities and resorts destinations with new markets including Bhutan, Samoa and Sri Lanka,” Taylor said.

In 2014, Starwood launched 30 new hotels and signed 71 across the region, but has earmarked to operate 500 hotels by 2015 with a further 30 hotels expected to open in the region.

While growth will continue to be led by China and India, followed by Southeast Asia, in January Starwood opened Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort, marking the company’s entry into Samoa and is set to launch Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows in October 2015.

Furthermore, shortly after opening its first property in Bhutan with Le Méridien Thimbhu, it will open the second in the kingdom, Le Méridien Paro, Riverfront later this year. Starwood will also enter new destination – Sri Lanka – with the Sheraton Colombo Hotel in 2015.

The company recently broadened its reward scheme for travel professionals under the SPG Pro programme, with individuals now able to earn Starpoints and status for the business they influence including group stays, events or corporate business meetings.

Starwood ceo Frits van Paasschen quit last month under a “mutual” agreement with the company, which has chosen to focus on expansion.

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