Jun302014

Loyalty Traveler Guide to nine brands of Starwood Hotels

Starwood Hotels has nine hotel brands, plus Starwood Vacation Ownership properties where members can pay and stay or redeem points for rooms and suites.

When it comes to choosing a hotel program to dedicate your loyalty, the two main criteria are the global footprint of the hotel chain and the hotel market segment. Starwood Hotels ranks high in the upper upscale and luxury market segment with more than 75% of its hotels in high-end market segment brands. Four Points is the lowest market segment for the chain. Aloft and Element are small brands with a millennial market flair for a socially active lobby space.

St. Regis and Luxury Collection hotels offer old world charm or urban sophistication. Hotels in these brands will set you back in cash or points or both with Cash & Points awards.

The limitation of Starwood Hotels tends to be the limited number of properties outside major urban centers. If you are jet setting to world capitals and resort centers, Starwood Hotels will likely be able to accommodate you. Head into the hinterland away from the major tourist centers and you will likely be looking for another hotel chain.

This post shows the most recent numbers from Starwood Hotels 2014 Q-1 reports for the number of hotels in each brand and their geographic distribution. Aloft is the hotel brand that has grown the most in the past year in the hotel chain. There has been little growth in other brands. China is the country seeing most new hotel activity.

Starwood Hotels – Hotel Chain Profile

Starwood Hotels & Resorts brands: 1,180 hotels with 347,285 rooms in 100 countries (3-31-2014)

  1. Sheraton – Upper Upscale, 433 hotels; 152,338 rooms.
  2. Westin – Upper Upscale, 198 hotels; 75,542 rooms.
  3. Four Points – Upscale, 182 hotels; 33,008 rooms.
  4. Le Meridien – Upper Upscale; 95 hotels; 25,739 rooms.
  5. Luxury Collection – Luxury, 87 hotels; 17,340 rooms.
  6. Aloft – Upscale; 80 hotels; 13,486 rooms.
  7. W Hotels – Luxury, 45 hotels; 13,021 rooms.
  8. St. Regis – Luxury, 31 hotels; 6,686 rooms.
  9. Starwood Vacation Ownership – timeshares with paid guest nights and discount timeshare sales stays.  14 properties; 7,576 rooms.
  10. Element – Upscale extended stay hotel; 11 hotels; 1,793 rooms.
  11. Other – 4 hotels; 756 rooms.

Hotel Chain Scale Segment 2013 Smith Travel Research STR used to rank hotels is scale based on average daily rate for the brand in the USA and globally.

Geographic Distribution of Hotels

  • North America: 591
  • Latin America: 79
  • Europe: 160
  • Africa and Middle East: 85
  • Greater China: 131
  • Rest of Asia: 134

Here are descriptions of each brand from Starwood Hotels followed by Loyalty Traveler comments and Loyalty Traveler selected reviews of hotels on each of the different Starwood brands.

St. Regis® (luxury full-service hotels, resorts and residences) is for connoisseurs who desire the finest expressions of luxury. They provide flawless and bespoke service to high-end leisure and business travelers. St. Regis hotels are located in the ultimate locations within the world’s most desired destinations, important emerging markets and yet to be discovered paradises, and they typically have individual design characteristics to capture the distinctive personality of each location.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Loyalty Traveler view: St. Regis Hotels are out of my economic bracket. I have stayed at several St. Regis properties in the past five years due to the generous SPG promotions of 2009/2010 when two or three stays earned one free night at category 6 hotels. In 2012, I was able to stay at a few properties.

Location is generally exceptional, rooms are large and well-furnished with superb on-site facilities.

My honest impression though when staying at these hotels is guest services are nickel-and-dime adventures. Want a cup of coffee? Plan to pay $6 a cup since there will likely be no coffee maker in the room.

The Luxury Collection® (luxury full-service hotels and resorts) is a group of unique hotels and resorts offering exceptional service to an elite clientele. From legendary palaces and remote retreats to timeless modern classics, these remarkable hotels and resorts enable the most discerning traveler to collect a world of unique, authentic and enriching experiences indigenous to each destination that capture the sense of both luxury and place. They are distinguished by magnificent decor, spectacular settings and impeccable service.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Luxury Collection are my favorite Starwood Hotels brand for unique hotel stay experiences. The properties are generally historic hotels or renovated historic buildings transformed into hotels. Europe’s Luxury Collection hotels are one of the most desirable attributes of the Starwood Hotels chain.

 

W® (luxury and upscale full-service hotels, retreats and residences) is where iconic design and cutting-edge lifestyle set the stage for exclusive and extraordinary experiences. Each hotel and retreat is uniquely inspired by its destination, where innovative design converges with local influences to create energizing spaces for guests to play or work by day or mix and mingle by night. Guests are invited into dynamic environments that combine entertainment, vibrant lounges, modern guestrooms, and innovative cocktail culture and cuisine. The beats per minute increase as the day transitions to night, amplifying the scene in every W Living Room for guests to socialize and see and be seen. W Hotels Worldwide, a global design powerhouse brought to life through W Happenings, exclusive partnerships and the signature Whatever/Whenever ® service philosophy that grants its guests and local community access to what’s new and next.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

W Hotels burned up the hotel industry new hotels planning guide when this hotel brand made its debut in 1998 with the W New York on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The hotels have a unique vibe, low lighting in interior spaces and a great use of minimal space that constitutes the rooms. W Hotels are where you want a suite upgrade, if you can afford it. My wife loves this hotel brand. I find W hotels interesting, but rarely a good value for the room compared to the price.

 

Westin® (luxury and upscale full-service hotels, resorts and residences) provides innovative programs and instinctive services which transform every aspect of a guest’s stay into a revitalizing experience. Indulge in a deliciously wholesome menu including exclusive SuperFoodsRx ® dishes. Energize in the fitness studio with the industry-leading WestinWORKOUT ® . Revive in the Heavenly ® Bath where luxurious touches create a spa-like experience. And of course, experience truly restorative sleep in the world-renowned Heavenly ® Bed—an oasis of lush sheets, down, and patented pillow-top mattress. Whether an epic city center location or refreshing resort destination, Westin ensures guests leave feeling better than when they arrived. Westin. For A Better You.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Westin Hotels were a hotel brand long before Starwood Hotels existed. I had Westin Premier membership back in 1991 and those early experiences were my first taste of hotel loyalty program benefits.

Le Méridien® (luxury and upscale full-service hotels, resorts and residences) is a Paris-born hotel brand, currently represented by 96 properties in 41 countries worldwide. Le Méridien aims to target the creative mind: an audience inspired by creativity who are eager to learn something new and see things in a different light. A curated approach towards the arts connects Le Méridien with the creative mind in an authentic and credible way. A cultural curator was engaged, responsible for integrating the arts into the guest experience and identifying the appropriate creative talents, a family of cultural innovators, LM100 TM , to define and enrich the guest experience through their dedicated tailor-made creations. This esteemed group comprises of a global array of visionaries, from painters to photographers, musicians to designers and chefs. Le Méridien is more than a hotel, it’s a way of life that provides “A New Perspective”.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Le Meridien was a French hotel chain established by Air France in 1972. The hotel brand went through several ownership changes prior to being purchased by Starwood Hotels in 2005. Several Le Meridien hotels where I stayed were dropped from the brand as Starwood reduced the Le Meridien portfolio down by about 25% in the past decade. Most of my stays at Le Meridien hotels were prior to blogging, so I have little to share on this brand.

Sheraton® (luxury and upscale full-service hotels, resorts and residences) is our largest brand serving the needs of business and leisure travelers worldwide. For over 75 years this iconic brand has welcomed guests, becoming a trusted friend to travelers and one of the world’s most recognized hotel brands. From being the first hotel brand to step into major international markets like China, to completely captivating entire destinations like Waikiki, Sheraton understands that travel is about bringing people together. Our social spaces define and differentiate Sheraton. The Link@Sheraton SM experienced with Microsoft is the heart of our lobby. Guests enjoy the upside of everything with Sheraton Club, designed with SPG members in mind. Sheraton Fitness programmed by Core Performance brings guests together as they train and eat healthy on the road. Sheraton transcends lifestyles, generations and geographies and will continue to welcome generation after generation of world travelers as The World’s Gathering Place.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Sheraton is the most prevalent brand by number of hotels in Starwood Hotels chain. This is a hotel brand with a much older history than Starwood Hotels, like Westin Hotels.

Sheraton Hotels have a wide range from luxury to commonplace airport hotels. The Palace Hotel San Francisco was once the Sheraton Palace until Starwood rebranded the historic hotel as Luxury Collection.

 

Four Points® (select-service hotels) delights the self-sufficient traveler with what is needed for greater comfort and productivity. Great Hotels. Great Rates. All at the honest value our guests deserve. Our guests start their day feeling energized and finish up relaxed, maybe even with one of our Best Brews (local craft beer). It’s the little indulgences that make their time away from home special.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

 

Four Points uses beer as its marketing pitch. The rooms are basic and there is a wide variety in hotel quality. These are popular brands in the airport market. I stayed in many Four Points to complete SPG promotions. Looks like I did not write many hotel reviews of Four Points properties.

Aloft® (select-service hotels) first opened in 2008. It opened its 62nd property in 2012. Aloft provides new heights: an oasis where you least expect it, a spirited neighborhood outpost, a haven at the side of the road. Bringing a cozy harmony of modern elements to the classic on-the-road tradition, Aloft offers a sassy, refreshing, ultra effortless alternative for both the business and leisure traveler. Fresh, fun, and fulfilling, Aloft is an experience to be discovered and rediscovered, destination after destination, as you ease on down the road. Style at a Steal.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Element® (extended stay hotels) first opened in 2008, provides a modern, upscale and intuitively designed hotel experience that allows guests to live well and feel in control. Inspired by Westin, Element hotels promote balance through a thoughtful, upscale environment. Decidedly modern with an emphasis on nature, Element is intuitively constructed with an efficient use of space that encourages guests to stay connected, feel alive, and thrive while they are away. Primarily all Element hotels are LEED certified, depicting the importance of the environment in today’s world. Space to live your life.

STARWOOD’S LIFESTYLE HOSPITALITY BRANDS

Aloft and Element were two of the first millennial hotel brands with bright colors and common space in the lobby for social gatherings and games.

These are cookie-cutter brands. I am fond of saying that a frequent guest needs to look out the window to remember what city you are in when staying at these hotels.

I like Element for its extended stay kitchen set-up and environmental attitude. Aloft is a fun place I enjoy when traveling alone. The rooms tend to be too small and cramped when traveling as a couple.

Starwood Preferred Guest seems to have a loyal guest following. Looking for hotel reviews to include in this post reveals to me that I have plenty of Starwood Hotel stays that I never bothered to write up for Loyalty Traveler readers. At the frequency hotels undergo Property Improvement Plans (PIP), there might be little value in showing photos from hotel stays several years ago.

Personally, I am still looking at Lifetime Platinum with SPG. I’ll likely have many more Starwood Hotel stays to share in the coming years.

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This is the fourth post of Loyalty Traveler Guide to Starwood Hotels and Starwood Preferred Guest.

1 – Loyalty Traveler Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest

2 – Loyalty Traveler Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest Award Nights

3 – Loyalty Traveler Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest elite member benefits

4 – Loyalty Traveler Guide to nine brands of Starwood Hotels

5 – Loyalty Traveler Guide to SPG Airline Partners, Transfers and Airline Direct Deposit program

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Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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