DUBAI — More than 200 members of Starwood’s corporate office are preparing to fly back home to Stamford, Conn. after spending more than a month in Dubai, conducting business from what the company calls “the new crossroads of global travel.”
The company conducted a similar corporate-office transplant two years ago in Shanghai. “My objective there and here as well, was to shift the mindset and the focus of the company to draw attention to a market that is so dynamic and increasingly important to the future of the company,” said Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., in a telephone interview with Hotelier magazine. “The difference between the temporary relocation of the company, and a business trip is that you have the chance to immerse yourself more, not just in the region and the city itself, but to use the area as a hub to explore.”
Dubai was fitting for company execs, since last month Starwood announced it will increase its presence in the Middle East and Africa by more than 60 per cent, adding 50 hotels over the next five years. “It’s a great example of how travel patterns are changing, and how luxury travel is developing. There’s a sense there’s so much farther to go,” added van Paasschen. Last month, the company opened the Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel, featuring 481 guestrooms, 94 suites, and 9,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space.
There’s been an explosion in the demand for luxury brands, sums up van Paasschen. “In this part of the world, [it’s] not just the accumulation of capital through oil exports but also importantly, it’s a major global crossroads,” he said, adding Starwood’s three luxury brands (The Luxury Collection, W, and St. Regis Hotels & Resorts) are comprised of 160 hotels across the globe. “With the growth that we see coming, it will only accelerate.”
By 2017, Starwood plans to have more than 130 hotels in the Middle East and Africa, including 12 hotels in UAE, six hotels in Saudi Arabia, three hotels in Iraq, two hotels in Nigeria and two hotels in Algeria.