The man leading the Starwood vision in the Middle East is Roeland Vos, President, Europe, Africa and Middle East, he is tasked with overseeing the operation of the corporations 169 hotels and resorts in 46 countries.
“Our strategy is to show our quality and service, put the right quality people in the right positions, ‘hire the right attitude’ and to allow our customers to experience and feel the ambiance, luxury and service.” He added, “We do not differentiate on price, rather on real life, lifestyle choices and aspirational desires.”
Vos was in Doha to give weight to an annual roundtable conference hosted by the Sheraton Doha. Over 400 delegates, mostly general managers and directors of sales and marketing, finance and HR of hotels, represented some 100 Starwood properties in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The meetings provided 16 training seminars and discussions on topics such as new strategies, brand trends revenue management and F&B expectations aimed specifically to reach for the future and to examine the changing market dynamics.
“Our customers are changing along with their needs and so our managers to need to be aware of market trends and be able to discuss and grow with these changes. Each GM has the freedom to operate within the framework and each GM needs to adapt to these changes,” Vos said.
Commenting on what sets the corporation’s hotels apart, Vos said it is that the nine different brands, each of which are well defined, he did stress the importance of taking something of the local environment and incorporating it into the individual brands both architecturally and culturally, whilst keeping the unmistakable culture and experience of each of the brands, that culture that is difficult to copy.
As an indication of trust, he said, “The owners of the properties are asking for our brands, this can be seen in the development of the W Brand, the construction of the St Regis and the 4 Points Sheraton in Doha – all number one international brands.”
Trust, he said, ultimately drives the bottom line
Starwood is showing these rewards and is the fastest growing conglomerate of brands, its recent acquisition of the Meridian brand has doubled the company’s input in the Middle East.
Starwood’s performance in Doha is that it has always been the leader, and many of the countries leaders have grown up with the Sheraton, and as such have a love of the brand, many of the countries people have been educated abroad and have already experienced the other brands such as the W brand, and this will be greatly influential in the future success of the brands in Doha.
Despite the opening a large number of hotels, Vos does not see that Qatar would not have a surplus of rooms in the near future.
“If the country continues to develop as per the governments current vision, with the airport expansion and focus on incentives and meetings tourism, it would be sometime before the market is saturated,” he said.
Speaking on developing the Aloft brand, Vos said that there was a demand for these hotels, and Starwood would be looking to fulfil the demand by signing up with multi property developers who have access to the land.
The Aloft brand is building on the success of W, keeping a similar theme and style, only being more affordable, and is aimed at the aspirational young people.
These hotels will be situated in satellite towns where there would be easy access to businesses and universities and as such there is a major demand for this style of hotel and we can expect to see a major building programme in the next five to ten years.
Vos has risen through the ranks, joining the Sheraton Brussels Hotel & Towers in 1982 as a management trainee.