New brands such as aloft and element have added extra twists as Starwood sets the pace in the hotel / leisure space.
In a sector where one hotel is very much like another and the franchised business model makes change complex, Starwood continues to stand out as the company able to deliver brand differentiation supported by a better guest experience than many peers. With its multiple faces to the market now including element and aloft alongside Sheraton, Four Points, Westin, St Regis, W, Le Meridien, and the Luxury Collection, Starwood has created distinctive experiences at all levels of the hospitality sector. Its early pioneering work on the Heavenly Bed is still paying dividends for the core Westin and Sheraton brands while, higher up the scale, the company’s St Regis and Luxury Collection are competing well with the likes of Mandarin Oriental.
However as competitors including Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG all still try to catch up with Starwood, it is the W brand that continues to lead the way. The ability of a multinational organisation with over 1000 hotels in its portfolio to curate a unique boutique-feel unified by common touch-points but with implicit autonomy has yet to be matched. As others see the use of iPads and free wi-fi for guests as sources of differentiation in the market, Starwood has managed to create a culture across a franchised operation that keeps it ahead for now. Although by comparison to other sectors the hotel industry is not a hotbed for innovation, given the constraints within which its leading players operate, Starwood continues to set the pace for hospitality innovation.