by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | September 01, 2011

Qian JinQian Jin, Shanghai-based senior vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Greater China, gives his perspective on having his company's senior leadership take up residence for five weeks in his backyard.

How do you think the Starwood team relocating to China was perceived by Chinese employees, clients and business partners?
The visit was very well received. It was clearly seen as Starwood's commitment to further expand in China. The fact that our senior leaders took time out of their hectic schedules to get to know the region and understand the business dynamics was greatly appreciated by many of us.


As Starwood continues to expand in China, what do you think will be its biggest challenge in terms of building brand awareness amongst the Chinese?
Today, almost half of our portfolio in China is Sheraton, and it is clearly one of the best recognized and respected brands in the country. Westin is quickly catching up to be another popular brand name with its success in key gateway cities, such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. And W hotels, despite a relatively small footprint, has become a brand eagerly sought after by trendsetters, following its openings in Hong Kong and Taipei. St. Regis will double its footprint this year with three additional hotels, including one in Shenzhen, where it is located in a 100-story building, the city's tallest.

As we introduce brands to new markets, it is important that we maintain global consistency but adapt locally, so we are relevant to our local guests. We also have been focusing on the localization of our Starwood Preferred Guest  program. It gives us a great opportunity to develop local, savvy marketing initiatives that speak to our Chinese guests.


What do you think will be Starwood's  biggest challenge in attracting and keeping Chinese travelers? After all, Hilton and Marriott also are vying for their attention.
Starwood has unique opportunities. Our brands, like Sheraton and Westin, are already well recognized. And as Chinese travel overseas, they are going to be seeking brands they trust. Chinese travelers will be looking for services that are customized to their needs, so they can feel at home even thousand of miles away. And they are going to expect to receive the same level of service they are used to with our properties in China.


What are the expectations of Chinese hotel owners? Do they differ to their American counterparts, which are typically banks, who are looking for an immediate return on investment?
There are many different types of Chinese owners. All of them are looking for a good return on their investment, and they also are relatively new to the hotel investment scene. To many of them, owning an internationally renowned branded hotel, such as a Sheraton, also is an endorsement of their social status. This requires our China team to be exceptionally savvy locally to manage their expectations. Often times our owners grant us future projects because they are happy with how Starwood has managed their current hotels.