The past 12 months have been filled with a number of milestones — most notably three openings, 11 signings and multiple renovations — for Starwood and Guido de Wilde, who hosted Starwood’s second ever global HQ relocation in March, in Dubai.
Headed by global president and CEO Frits van Paasschen and largely facilitated by de Wilde, the team conducted nearly 50 owner meetings, visited all 14 Starwood hotels in Dubai, travelled to 19 cities in 12 countries and met with 150 corporate and leisure customers.
The exercise demonstrated the value of the Middle East to Starwood globally and over the past year, de Wilde has simultaneously expanded the company’s presence and embarked on extensive renovations at 25% of the portfolio.
Nearly 50% of the development pipeline includes hotels in emerging markets such as Jordan, Oman, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Qatar, while luxury brands — St. Regis, Luxury Collection and W Hotels — and mid-scale brands – Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and Element — represent nearly two-thirds of the current pipeline, to date dominated by Sheraton and Le Méridien.
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is the most high profile opening of the past year, while Ajman Saray, A Luxury Collection Resort, will open by the end of 2013 and become Starwood’s 23rd hotel in UAE. A further 10 new hotels and nearly 3000 rooms across the Middle East are due to open by the end of 2013, including three more hotels in the UAE, most notably the 660-room Sheraton Dubai Tower Sheikh Zayed Road.
Meanwhile, the Aloft brand will debut in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, and De Wilde will launch the first Sheratons in Iraq, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.
De Wilde has also ramped up the company’s conversion tally, with Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates and Four Points by Sheraton Riyadh Khaldia now open and Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Resort, currently undergoing extensive renovations ahead of the brand’s Lebanon debut next year.
These achievements come as De Wilde celebrates his 30th year in the industry, 12 of which have been dedicated to this region. He has also continued to participate in the Road to Awareness UNICEF fundraising initiative he helped pioneer, somehow fitting in time to cycle 450km through the Austrian Alps this summer in pursuit of the group’s target to raise a massive US$500,000 for children in Nigeria and Cameroon.