Top Starwood director looks to more growth

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Top Starwood director looks to more growth



The hotel industry is undergoing a major transformation while demands from travelers are changing.

Marriott International is set to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in a deal valued at $12.2 billion to become the world’s largest hotel operator.

At the same time, hotels are now competing with home-rental sharing platforms such as Airbnb.

Vincent Ong, senior director of brand management at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, discussed the potential effect of the deal and expansion plans for the Four Points Hotels by Sheraton in an interview with Korea JoongAng Daily. ?

Q. How will the latest deal affect operations of Four Points, or, more broadly, Starwood?

A. There will be no major effect on our service. In terms of what will happen, we are actually at a very early stage. The announcement came on Monday. It will take at least six months for us to complete the deal. Until then, we will be operated separately, so basically business as usual.

What are the considerations when Four Points chooses a location?

The most important thing is the right location, right partner and right market. With such focuses, we want ultimately to grow as fast as possible. It took us 20 years to get to 200 hotels, and now, the growth pace is going to be even faster. This is because we are currently having the highest number of pipeline hotels for Starwood. What that means is that Four Points has more hotels at various stages of construction than any other Starwood brands.

How do you see the performance of Four Points in Korea?

We have two hotels in Korea right now. The first one is here in Namsan and the second one is to be located in Gangnam District.

Given that this hotel [Four Points, Namsan] is doing so well, we hope that it will encourage more [franchise] owners to want it.

Aloft Seoul Gangnam is another mid-market brand for Starwood. Won’t the planned Gangnam Four Points erode sales?

The target customers are different from positioning perspectives. However, the Gangnam area can support many more hotels, because it is a very attractive location for business travelers and tourists, both Korean and international. As for the main clients, the Aloft targets the so-called Generation Y (people born during the 1980s and early 1990s). Its focus is placed on music and design, and it has a lot of energy. The Aloft brand is actually taking the energy and concept from Starwood’s W Hotel. On the other hand, the Four Points brand is a more contemporary hotel catering to independent travelers. Its focus is to provide the basics and become functional. So, the attitude and energy is very different from Aloft. With the two hotels, we are giving more options to our clients.

Do you see rental-sharing service providers like Airbnb as a threat?

Yes, it is a threat. Any business that provides a place to stay would be a competitor for the hotel business. But, if you are a traveler on business who is looking for extras, like service and house keeping facilities, Airbnb would be unable to provide those extras. In other words, Airbnb would find it hard to replicate or deliver such services which require personalization and attention to detail.


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