NEW YORK—With its three-year, US$6-billion revitalization plan complete, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts has now launched a US$20-million ad campaign to be sure consumers are aware of the new look and feel.
At an event to mark the US$150-million renovation of the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, Hoyt Harper, global brand leader, said the “Meet You There” ad campaign will focus on Sheraton signature amenities, such as Link@Sheraton high-tech lobbies, enhanced fitness centers and upgraded club lounges.
After the renovation of 143 Sheraton hotels (105 in North America) and the removal of 65 (41 in North America), Harper’s job now is to change perceptions in the consumer’s mind.
“We are moving from a message of ‘Rediscovering Sheraton’ to a new campaign of ‘Meet You There’ which highlights social networking amenities,” he said.
The campaign uses lighthearted looks at guests gathering in different settings with clever headlines like “Wi-Fi, Mai-Tai, Say Hi” for Link@Sheraton; and “Body for Business” for fitness centers.
The campaign will include out-of-home, motion-activated digital touch screens that allow consumers to experience the brand’s offerings digitally.
The US$6-billion investment in the upper-upscale brand has already paid off, according to Harper, because market share has increased, customer satisfaction is at record levels, and the percentage of Sheraton customers who are Starwood Preferred Guest members has jumped from 39% to 45%.
Hoyt Harper, Sheraton
Harper said it has been the philosophy of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide CEO Frits Van Paasschen that “a stronger Sheraton means a stronger Starwood” because Sheraton is Starwood’s biggest brand. Sheraton’s transformation and growth also brings opportunity to other Starwood brands, Harper said.
“For instance, our growth in China paves the way for W Hotels, Westin and others,” he said.
John Belden, CEO of Davidson Hotels and Resorts, said since the Sheraton revitalization began, his company will have added 10 Sheratons to its portfolio by the end of summer—managing all of them and with sliver equity in some.
“We wouldn’t have done that without the makeover,” Belden said. “Sheraton was struggling and the first transformation needed to be physical and getting the detractors out of the system—the hotels that didn’t fit because of location or quality issues. Those two efforts have created an extraordinary new quality level.
“Now we have to restore our relationships with our customers, especially business and group travelers,” he continued. “Already our Sheratons have been growing in terms of market share and (revenue per available room).” All of Davidson’s (http://www.davidsonhotels.com/portfolio/portfolio.asp) Sheratons have undergone major renovations, he said.
“It was a struggle five years ago to convince investors to consider Sheraton; that has changed very rapidly and investors are able to see how strong the brand has become,” Belden said. “We have also experienced one of the fastest rebounds from a customer’s service standpoint I’ve ever seen.”
Next on the revitalization front is an upgrade to club floor lounges, another US$100 million investment aimed at winning over business travelers, Harper said.
“At a time when our competitors are cutting back on their lounges, we are doing the opposite,” he said. “We are opening not just on weekdays, but seven days a week.”
Also, the next generation of Link@Sheraton is making its debut at the Sheraton Stamford in Connecticut.
Looking ahead, Harper said Sheraton will see US$5 billion worth of openings between 2011 and 2013. He said he would like to see the percentage of franchised hotels increase from the current 70%. He also said 18 out of 65 new hotels would be resorts.
Harper said Sheraton will continue to expand rapidly in China, with seven more hotels opening in that country by the end of September. There are 35 Sheratons in China.
The brand will also open four hotels in India by 2013. Starwood has six Sheratons open in India.