In a significant vote of confidence for India’s burgeoning travel market, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) – which already boasts the largest upper-upscale and luxury Indian footprint of any U.S.-based hotel company – is launching a major expansion of its mid-market brands in the country.
The news comes as Starwood president and CEO Frits van Paasschen and the company’s leadership team embarks on a two-week tour of India to meet with hotel owners, developers and team members.
Aloft, the sizzling tech-savvy brand that has rocked the U.S. hospitality industry will make its debut in India this year, with three properties planned for 2010 alone. Aimed at Generation Y, Aloft is Starwood’s design-led, social-experience brand that has enjoyed the fastest ramp-up of any brand in hotel history. As a young, tech-driven society, India will become a key market for Aloft’s development outside of the United States.
By 2012, Aloft expects to operate six hotels in India, more than any other country in the Asia-Pacific region. Aloft Chennai-OMR-IT Expressway, Aloft Bengaluru-Whitefield, and Aloft Coimbatore Singanallur are all scheduled to debut in 2010. Next year, Starwood will continue Aloft’s ambitious expansion with the opening of Aloft Ahmedabad, SG Road, Aloft Chandigarh Zirakpur, and a second Bangalore hotel, Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park.
Four Points by Sheraton and its “uncomplicated comfort” positioning, which has proved a huge hit for Starwood worldwide, debuted in India in 2009 with the openings of Four Points by Sheraton Navi Mumbai, Vashi and Four Points by Sheraton, Jaipur City Square. Because of the “halo” of the iconic Sheraton brand, Four Points by Sheraton is already a “developer darling” in India.
“All signs point to India as a place Starwood wants to grow, and our focus here reflects a real excitement about India’s future,” said Frits van Paasschen, Starwood’s CEO. “While we’ve had a long and successful presence in India, and our brands enjoy loyal followings here, India’s potential presents new opportunities.” As it grows in India, Starwood’s investments will add thousands of new hotel rooms to India’s tourism infrastructure, and will add more than 4,000 jobs to the Indian economy, he said.
All Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton properties in India will be new builds, bringing a new generation of sleek, modern, and youthful mid-market hotels to the country.
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. Starwood is on track with plans to grow its existing portfolio of 26 hotels 60 percent by 2012.
According to van Paasschen, India has actually been “under-hoteled”, with just 100,000 total hotel rooms; while New York City alone has 80,000 rooms. “When you consider the growth of India’s middle class, the incredible expansion of outsourcing, the country’s rising affluence, and a plugged-in younger generation with a thirst for international brands, it’s easy to see why we’re eager to deepen our roots here.”