China has become the richest source of new, loyal travelers for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT), according to an analysis on the enrollment and travel trends of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members. The results underscore previous reports by the World Tourism Organization that forecast China as the world’s largest market for inbound and domestic tourism by 2015.
According to the analysis, Chinese enrollment in SPG jumped 50 percent in 2009 compared to last year, and SPG members now make up roughly half the occupancy of Starwood hotels in China. The rapid growth has resulted in China’s rise to become the SPG program’s fourth largest base of active members, behind only the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
At Elite levels, SPG members in China are 94 percent active in the program – the highest rate globally for the group. Further to that, the SPG program’s most significant growth area in China is in the category of guests who stay more than 10 times a year, which has grown more than 40 percent year over year. The growth in this segment is unprecedented compared to global averages and supports the strong engagement of our most loyal guests in China with Starwood and SPG.
“The Starwood Preferred Guest program has a universal appeal that translates around the globe, but the way our Chinese members engage and take advantage of the program benefits is unique to them,” said Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO of Starwood. “While accruing Starpoints® to earn Free Night awards across Starwood’s range of luxury, upper upscale and select service hotels is a key benefit, our Chinese members are also particularly interested in the status accorded by the program and the allure of VIP access. The ability to use Starpoints to redeem instant awards such as room upgrades, spa treatments and other hotel services is one of the most appealing features of the SPG program in China.”
The analysis also revealed Chinese SPG members are most likely to redeem their points for domestic travel at Starwood hotels in Hong Kong, Sanya, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Hangzhou. International travel was largely confined to Asia with most popular redemption properties located in Taipei, Taiwan; Singapore; Bali, Indonesia; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.