Starwood moves HQ staff to ShanghaiJune 6th, 2011 by Andrew Moth | Categories: hotels, industry, tourism
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is moving its senior leadership team (SLT) to China for one month.
From this Wednesday, June 8, to July 11, Starwood president & CEO Frits van Paasschen and the company’s top executives will be headquartered in Shanghai, where they will conduct day-to-day business on a 12-hour time difference with their “usual” operations in White Plains, New York.
This relocation underscores Starwood’s growth in China, which recently became its second largest market outside of the United States and its fastest growing.
The move also reflects Starwood’s innovative approach to cultivate a more global culture in a company that grew up largely in the United States.
“With properties in nearly 100 countries, Starwood is no longer an American company that happens to run some hotels overseas. Today, we’re a global company that happens to be based in New York,” said Van Paasschen.
“Eighty percent of our future pipeline is outside of North America, and nowhere is more emblematic of our global growth than China, where we will open one hotel every two weeks this year. China’s spectacular transformation is hard to grasp unless experienced firsthand – it’s the proverbial: ‘you can’t really understand a culture until you buy groceries there.’”
From their home base in Shanghai, Van Paasschen and seven members of his senior leadership team will conduct daily business in an unconventional effort to understand, appreciate and ultimately leverage different cultural perspectives and approaches to business.
In addition, more than 20 Starwood executives from the US and international locations will join the team throughout the course of the relocation. The group will delve into Starwood’s extensive business in China, meeting with local customers, partners and developers, while also touring new properties throughout the country.
During its month abroad, Starwood’s SLT will also bolster the company’s guest loyalty outreach among Chinese travellers. As one of the world’s fastest-growing travel markets, with 100 million outbound travellers expected by 2015, China will play an outsized role in global travel within the next decade.
The country continues to be the richest source of new loyal travellers for Starwood, with Chinese enrolment in Starwood Preferred Guest, Starwood’s loyalty program, jumping 71% in 2010.
Based on the anticipated success of Starwood’s managerial experiment in China, the company intends to implement a month-long global relocation annually. Its next high-growth target markets include Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and India.
“It is not just language that gets lost in translation, but also cultural nuances. The companies that will break away in an increasingly global world will be those that are most globally fluent,” said Van Paasschen.
Starwood’s global relocation is also a symbolic trip, as the company reaches a new milestone: for the first time in its history, Starwood has more hotels outside the US than inside.
Starwood enjoys a first-mover advantage in China dating back to 1985 with the landmark debut of the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in Beijing, which was the first international branded hotel in the People’s Republic of China.
Today, Starwood has more than 70 hotels in China flying eight of its nine brands’ flags and another 90 properties in the pipeline.