|By Chadamas Chinmaneevong, Bangkok Post,
ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 14, 2013--Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide says young millionaires are emerging as an influential segment in the highly competitive global tourism industry.
Today, 85% of Starwood's luxury guests are rich travellers from Generation X and Y, so the US hotel chain is positioning itself to cater to this group.
Starwood will aggressively invest to create, renovate or restore luxury hotels in anticipation of the growth of luxury demand.
Lothar Pehl, senior Asia-Pacific vice-president for operations and global initiatives, said Starwood spent time to develop the concept of "Generation LuXurY" because today's wealthy tourists are different from any generation before.
Globalisation and a more digitally connected world are creating business without borders and a change in customer demography.
"The world's wealthiest people are no longer just old elites. Wealth is moving east and south and from established to self-made families. The dotcom boom has encouraged a rise of travels by the new generation of global elites who are called Generation LuXurY," Mr Pehl said.
Their approach to luxury is less formal, more personal and defined more by interests and mindset than by geography and demographics.
When the new elites travel, they don't want just only exotic destinations but also luxury and experience. They like to share with friends their travel stories online and travel is considered part of their life exploration.
The growth and expansion of W Hotels is a great example of the potential of this market. In the late 1990s, Starwood saw a blank space in hospitality to cater to this new generation of luxury tourists.
In the past, the meaning of luxury was all about wearing elegant clothes and being formal and polite. Starwood realised that luxury can also be fun.
The W Hotels brand entered the Asia-Pacific region in 2004. It now has nine W hotels in the region with 12 more in the pipeline, said Mr Pehl.
As the fastest-growing luxury brand, W Hotels has more than doubled its global portfolio in the past five years to reach 43 properties.
"To approach young millionaires, Starwood has to understand their preferences, interests and demands. We need to think of what they need before we do anything for them," Mr Pehl said.
Tourism in Asia-Pacific including Thailand will continue to grow thanks to strong economic performance and the stable political environment, he said.
In 2012, the number of international tourists surpassed one billion for the first time and the rising momentum is expected to continue this year.
With more wealthy people, Starwood expects to see a continued increase in leisure travel, while corporate travel will cater to demand in emerging Asia-Pacific countries.
In the next few years, the growth of global luxury demand will drive competition beyond pricing. To stand out, hotels should focus more on delivering tailor-made and personalised experiences to tourists.
Starwood will this year open 31 hotels, with 20 in China. It is on track to reach 400 hotels in 2016.
As of December 2012, Starwood owned, managed or franchised 1,134 properties employing over 171,000 people, with 26% of staff in the US.
(c)2013 the Bangkok Post (Bangkok, Thailand)
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