Qian 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?
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.
Starwood continues to expand in China, what do you think will be its
biggest challenge in terms of building brand awareness amongst the
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
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