You probably know W Hotels as the chic side of the Starwood brand. It’s not as business-driven as the Westin properties, more upscale than Sheraton and Four Points but less pricey and less traditional than brands like St. Regis and The Luxury Collection. So where, exactly, does that leave W Hotels?
According to Carlos Becil, v.p., brand management, W Hotels worldwide, that leaves the brand in a perfect position to clear the economic hurdles that lay before it. W Hotels is based on forward thinking, he says, and by focusing on the future, it makes headway with its clients, with travel agents, and with the issue of selling travel in a recession.
fashion forward “W is really about the person who is interested in the trendiest, hippest and most fashionable,” Becil explains. “The W guest is a trendsetter, someone who is passionate about our core values of fashion, design, nightlife and entertainment.” Those core values are reflected throughout the hotels, in elements like W CD, a mix of music by established and emerging artists like Goldfrapp and Imogen Heap—musicians who aren’t exactly household names, but who aren’t so obscure as to be off-putting, either. Like the music on its signature CD, W Hotels occupies the hip space between the traditional and the boutique, offering resort-scale accommodations and amenities with the aesthetic appeal of a small designer inn.
“W is more than a hotel brand,” Becil emphasizes, “establishing itself as an iconic lifestyle brand that offers guests unprecedented insider access to a world of ‘wow’ through contemporary cool design, fashion, nightlife, celebrities and entertainment. W is the coolest place in town, and it has to be the destination within its destination.”
W properties reach that goal by indulging guests in their hipster fantasies, including packages that give guests an insider’s look behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week or backstage access at live concerts held within the hotels. For instance, Texas-bound culture seekers can book the W Dallas–Victory’s King Tut Experience, which includes two VIP passes to the “King Tut” exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art paired with two “Tutini” cocktails. And the brand’s success also stems from catering to the needs, as well as the dreams, of that youthful, “plugged-in” market. W properties across the globe offer the W Hotels Wired package, adding unlimited in-room Internet access, unlimited local and toll-free calls and 500 Bonus Starpoints to stays through June.
And if you think that W Hotels’ young and affluent guests don’t make up a significant share of the travel market, think again. The demand for W’s “lifestyle branded” hotels has led the company to expand beyond the States into exotic territories across the globe. “We are transforming from a U.S. phenomenon into a global powerhouse,” Becil says, noting new properties like W Istanbul and W Hong Kong, and W Doha in the Middle East due to open in the years ahead. “With 10 years of proven success, we will triple our footprint by 2011,” he continues, noting other upcoming properties in Puerto Rico, Dubai, Bali and South Beach.
As a resort catering to clients obsessed with the next big thing, W Hotels has adopted a forward-thinking business strategy to match the ideals of its target market. And in these times of economic hardship, Becil says, that’s exactly the type of attitude a business needs. “We are making use of this economic downturn to strengthen our service levels in the hotels and focus on operational excellence while continuing to create innovative guest experiences,” he says. “We never let a time like this go to waste, but we also take the long view and are continuing to build and open new hotel properties across the globe in anticipation of the upswing. Over the lifespan of these new properties, the current economic situation will be a small part of the hotel’s long history.”
how to sell Agents looking to add W Hotels to their sales repertoire have two important tools at their disposal, Becil says. “StarwoodPro and ProLearning are two key tools Starwood provides to our sales teams in the field. StarwoodPro establishes a sophisticated, user-friendly interface between Starwood and travel professionals, including a robust search and booking engine, complete brand information and access to Starpicks, the lowest Internet rates available from Starwood.” But when it comes to tapping into W’s design-focused clients, he says, ProLearning is a crucial element. “ProLearning helps travel professionals better understand and experience our brands, learn more about our hotels and resort locations and find topics that are relevant to their business, all with the goal to deepen customer relationships.”