STAMFORD, Connecticut—While most hotel brands follow the philosophy that the customer comes first, Westin takes that credo to another level. From wellness programs to leisure weekends to hosting meetings, Westin continues to push the boundaries with its offerings. With its 200th hotel set to open in the next six months, the brand has figured out how to implement innovative initiatives that anchor guests’ happiness.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has always been on the cutting edge of innovation and wellness. From the Heavenly Bed to WestinWorkout, the company’s strategy is to hone in on its demographic, making guests feel comfortable, relaxed and healthy, said Bob Jacobs, VP of brand management for Sheraton and Westin hotels, last week during The Westin New York Grand Central’s one-year anniversary party.
Westin cultivates a “culture of innovation” that the global brand team has transformed into a strong pipeline of initiatives for the brand, Jacobs said.
Finding the sweet spot
For Westin, it comes down to giving its target guests—business travelers who enjoy leisure elements of the hotel—what they want and fulfilling those expectations. To do that, Jacobs and his team are zoning in on that traveler’s sweet spot, which is helping the brand grow.
And it starts with wellness.
“Westin is all about well-being and preserving wellness in travel,” Jacobs said. “It’s becoming increasingly important for people to want to have that kind of feeling of wellness while they’re on the road.”
The brand is renovating all of the fitness centers, adding more treadmills, extra space and a more residential design through its WestinWorkout program, which was implemented in 2005 to provide exercise equipment in guestrooms. Additionally, the brand partnered with New Balance for RunWestin, which allows runners to borrow running gear from Westin hotels if they didn’t pack their own.
Wellness extends beyond workout programs. Westin Weekends projects a leisurely vibe, encouraging business travelers to extend their stays for the weekend. Because Westin’s target demographic is a focus leader that doesn’t take a vacation, “the short, intense weekends in Westin may be their only vacation for the year,” Jacobs said.
“We’re trying to change the atmosphere in the Westin to be a little bit more relaxed on the weekend,” Jacobs explained.
When guests enter the lobby, the music is more calming, staff is dressed more casually, breakfast can be ordered later and checkout is extended. Because of the program, Westin has seen an uptick in weekend shares, Jacobs said.
Indeed, Westin’s focus on making a business traveler’s life easier is ingrained in its culture, attracting a balanced mix of group, business and leisure travelers, Jacobs said. This also creates loyalty. Guests “come back and spend money with us, but they also spread the word too,” he said.
To cater to the growing number of upscale business travelers, Westin is also extending its presence to global urban cities in the Asia/Pacific region and Latin America. The company recently opened a Westin hotel in Panama and is expected to open another in Singapore in November. Jacobs said the brand is focused on domestic and global growth.
Travelers also are continuing to grow their income levels and “there are a lot of parts of the world where people are now able to travel again and can afford a hotel like Westin,” he said. Jacobs said guests abroad choose Westin because they want to “experience the local culture, and they also want to choose hotels that have some degree of consistency.”
"We’re building brands based on lifestyle so we differentiate not on price but on target audience, lifestyle and segment.” Treating guests “like royalty” when they stay at the hotel is part of Starwood’s larger Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, which gives guests “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” he said.
"Our brand differentiators were all developed through the lens of wellness and together build a strong suite of products and services that deliver on our positioning,” he said. “The challenge moving forward is how do we continue to innovate and enhance our guest experience.”