Stephen's Message

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Dear Colleagues

Hello from Hong Kong! We just concluded our ten day SLT Asia trip with Frits, Vasant, Simon, Phil, Tad and Andrew together with our divisional and regional teams. We started our journey in Macau with the grand opening of Sheraton Macao, our largest hotel globally (approximately 4000 rooms with a ballroom that is larger than 11 basketball courts). From Macau, we travelled to Xian, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Manila, and ended our journey in Myanmar. The SLT trip showcased the diversity of our hotels, associates and regions in this division. You must be wondering the purpose of visiting Manila and Myanmar where we have no hotel. Well, this is precisely the reason for our visits as we wanted to explore opportunities with potential owners and make some noises with the media folks and government officials.

Talking about grand opening, Sheraton Macau’s opening is definitely a hard act to follow. From the fantastic firework display to the gala dinner and after-dinner pool party, everyone was so impressed with the power of Starwood. Our colleagues from Stamford, divisional and regional teams as well as supporting hotels and associates from Sheraton Macao worked together to host the biggest opening event in this division. We assembled nearly 517 media folks from Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, India, China, Philippines, Australia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, etc. Kudos to our owners, Las Vegas Sands; the Sheraton Macau associates led by Josef Dolp; SSO, Sales & Marketing teams from the various hotels and division who provided tremendous support to look after such a big media event plus nearly 1000 VIP guests. Our guests raved about the extensive facilities and more importantly on the excellent services provided by the 1450 tireless associates from over 20 nationalities at the hotel. To welcome the auspicious opening, the hotel with nearly 2000 rooms in phase one ran almost full house with paying guests two days after the grand opening! This successful opening sent a very positive message to the development communities and our owners of Starwood’s capability in delivering stunning result even for such a large hotel.

As this is my first letter to all of you after taking over the helm officially from Miguel on 1 July, I want to take this opportunity to share my reflection in the couple of months and how I see the future as we embark on a new chapter together. Actually I have been working closely with Miguel since his retirement announcement in April this year. It has been an interesting and at times exhausting journey as I juggled between learning new things in this new role while handing over the Greater China development responsibility over to Robert. The traveling to the diverse region within Asia Pacific is a real eye opener for me as with each hotel visit. I learned more about the intriguing part of our business in each city or resort. The highlight of my trip is meeting with our associates, customers and owners. I benefitted so much by talking to our hotel teams as there are immense wealth of experiences and ideas generated by our associates to improve our connection with our guests.

I am very fortunate to inherit a well-diversified hotel portfolio, generally reasonable owners who are great business partners and most importantly a very talented and dedicated team of people working in this division. Having Miguel around for over four months to do the handover has really helped me settled into the role comfortably. Quite a few folks asked me how I would fit into Miguel’s shoes. The reality is Miguel is a true legend in this company and would be difficult for me to fit into his shoes. I just need to bring my own shoes (at least it fits) and take one step at a time as I embark on the next phase of my Starwood journey.

Moving forward, we have launched Global Personalization at Starwood or “GPS” recently. This will be the game changer for all of us at Starwood. GPS is a slate of initiatives that would give us new capabilities to understand our guests and customers better to deliver consistent personalized experiences throughout the world, building loyalty beyond reason and achieving our goal to “Own the Guest”. If we execute this initiative properly, we will leave our competitors behind and ensure the loyalty of our SPG guests. So I am requesting that all of you especially the front line associates embrace GPS as only you can deliver the promise and touch our customers in a positive way. For General Managers and Operation Excellence team members, please ensure that you take the time to download the relevant GPS in Actions notes (e.g. 14 Things to Know & Do) so that you can train your teams accordingly.

Another important initiative which is instrumental in shaping our organization over the years is STARWOOD CARES. This is our pillar in defining our organization, creating a shared culture, establishing ourselves as an Employer of Choice and most importantly, sharing a set of important values. As Starwood Cares has been with us for more than a decade, it has evolved over time to support our business needs and plays an important part in bonding all our associates together. You will be hearing from Francis and the Divisional Talent Management & Culture Team on an important resource to supplement Starwood Cares. Stay tuned and more to come from Francis on this new resource available……….

Today, we are the largest upper upscale and luxury operator in Asia Pacific with 235 operating and 150 properties under construction. However, we cannot rest on our laurel and must continue to push our growth on the development front. We have strong pipeline and our development teams will continue to push our leads in each region. The reality is we will only be able to sign more deals if we deliver on our performance so the work by the field teams are extremely important for us to win new deals from our competitors. Overall, September has been a good month for us; beside Sheraton Macau, we opened W Sentosa in Singapore; ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, India; The Royal Begonia in Hainan; Sheraton Fuzhou and Sheraton Changchun Hotels which added another 6 new hotels to our operating portfolio bringing our YTD openings to 23 new hotels. Our development teams executed 46 new hotels including a new LOI for Sheraton in Manila which is one of the few countries in Asia where we do not have a presence.

With budgeting season in process, I would like to emphasize that we must focus on our initiatives but at the same time be adaptable to change in an uncertain global economy to stay ahead of the game. As a company, we have strong programs and KPI in place to support our business be it GPS, SPG, GEI, Channel Delivery, TLPE, ISAC, cluster sales, etc. We have witnessed and recovered strongly from previous crisis. The key is we must build a resilient business model and cost structure so we can weather any downturn and continue to grow our business in the right way.

I will sign off here with a quote: “It is important to think of the challenges or problems in life, but even more important to “Put Them Down” before you retire for the day. That way, you will not be stressed and wake up every day fresh & strong to handle any issues, any challenges that comes your way!”

Regards,
Stephen Ho
President
Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts


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