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Starwood Hotels' Chris Austin

Starwood Hotels is one of the largest hotel brands in the world with 190 hotels & resorts across their three luxury brands alone. VP, Global Leisure, Luxury & TMC Sales, Chris Austin discusses luxury brand expectations, Marriott merger and how Starwood uphold’s it’s reputation as an industry leader.

For Starwood’s luxury brands, how would you describe the anticipated guest experience offered by each brand?

Starwood is the largest operator of luxury hotels in the world with more than 190 hotels and resorts across our three luxury brands: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and W Hotels.

Would you say that certain brands might appeal to one age group or type of traveler over another?

Starwood Hotels & Resorts operates eleven distinct world class brands in 100 countries worldwide. Our brands are very much lifestyle focused brands, which is really what makes our brands stand out. Our guests are so passionate about them because they focus on their passions and interests.

For example, the W brand focuses on fashion, music and design for  guests who are trend setters and seeking what’s new and next. And, Westin focuses on the traveler whose passion is health and wellness which is why we have programming geared toward those passion points with our RunWESTIN™ program and SUPERFOODSRX™ menu. Our guests have many different reasons that they travel – for business, for vacation, (or stay-cation) or for a specific event or family reunion and they may choose different brands for different types of stays.

When it seems like there’s no land left untouched by Starwood, where do you find potential for new builds and renovations? What’s next on the list?

We keep an eye out for emerging markets in addition to well-known hot spots around the globe so our customers have a choice and can get access to our brands wherever they want to travel. Our focus remains on innovation and growth.

After signing nearly 70% more hotel deals during the first half of the year, Starwood has continued its commitment to offering our guests a better way to see the world.

While we are keeping an eye on emerging markets, our second-quarter signings will expand our presence in important markets around the globe including Canada, China, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Of the 20 new hotels opened during the quarter, 25% were in the luxury segment, which positions us well to meet booming demand for luxury travel. This quarter, St. Regis made its debut in Malaysia with two new hotels and W opened its first hotel in Dubai, while Cuba will soon be home to a new hotel in The Luxury Collection. We are where you and your clients wish to travel.

The Luxury Collection recently had a collaboration with Sofia Sanchez de Betak to create a limited-edition line of Globe-Trotter luggage. Tell us about it!

Absolutely! We are so thrilled to have collaborated with Sofia. She is a true citizen of the world and the Luxury Collection of hotels and resorts offer unique, authentic experiences to our global explorer guests who want these indigenous experiences that truly have lasting memories for them, so it was definitely a great union of creativity. We asked her to design a set of Globe-Trotter luggage inspired by her travels to our Luxury Collection hotels and resorts in Greece – there are four styles available and each feature a treasure map of a different locale in Greece: Santorini, Messinia, Athena and Mykonos. The maps on the luggage actually help the guest “unlock” some of the best spots to check out in these areas. They came out fabulous and can be purchased at And, SmartFlyer clients can visit all of these fabulous locations when they plan their stay with a SmartFlyer advisor today.

Can you give us some insight in to the merger with Marriott?

With the merger, we are creating an exciting future for the combined company. It allows us to do three key things that will continue to drive preference for next generation travelers:

First, expand our ability to better serve our customers and loyal guests by having the right product in the right markets and locations. Second, use our expanded size and scale to smartly invest in marketing and technology so we stay relevant for our customers and guests. Third, create the strongest loyalty program in the business—bringing together the best of SPG, Marriott Rewards, and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.

This is truly history in the making and following the merger, our combined companies will make the largest hotel company in the world with 5,500 hotels and resorts around the world, offering SmartFlyer clients even more choices!

Final question, can you tell us about the Starwood Preferred Guest program and how it’s helped establish Starwood as an industry leader?

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG®) is the innovative, award-winning frequent traveler program that unites each of Starwood’s 11 distinctive hotel brands and includes more luxury hotels in more destinations around the world. The program was launched in 1999 and immediately established Starwood as the industry leader by reinventing the hospitality loyalty landscape with its breakthrough policy of no blackout dates.

Over the years, SPG has continued to lead in loyalty with its tradition of innovation with enhancements such as Cash + Points, SPG MomentsSM, and most recently Your24™ and SPG Lifetime™. In addition to Free Night Awards at almost 1,300 hotels and resorts and Award Flights on over 150 major airlines without blackout dates, the Starpoints® that members earn through SPG can be redeemed for access like no other to experiences in music, sports and the arts through SPG Moments.

SPG has also made a commitment to digital innovation to meet the needs of today’s connected global traveler – from SPG Keyless to the SPG app that utilizes state-aware technology to create a more personalized hotel stay. SmartFlyer’s valued clients can earn Starpoints® by traveling the globe and unlock a world of opportunities and rewards.

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