Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide certainly isn’t the first company to pay attention to China, but in the hotel space its symbolic commitment to the market has made quite a splash.
The depth and breadth of that wave is yet to be seen, conceded Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood, during a breakfast Tuesday morning in Shanghai, his last day in China. But that is the nature of the hotel business—slow returns.
I like his honesty. At the same time he’s doing something completely novel for a CEO by spending 35 days here, van Paasschen is humble enough to admit his mere presence isn’t going to make it rain Renminbi overnight, nor was he able to become an expert on the Chinese hotel industry. (Look for more on this topic in later coverage.)
His efforts have certainly made a difference to the local leadership of Starwood. Qian Jin, senior VP, operations, Greater China, said the visit has shortened the distance to the top of the organization, which makes cooperation and communication much easier. And in a market where relationships matter, this is not lost on Starwood’s property owners.
Van Paasschen also enjoyed seeing the interpretation of the Aloft concept at the newly opened Aloft Nanhai, Foshan in the Guangdong province in Southern China. While his time visiting hotels in China is over for now, I still have 24 hours left to explore and many more hours to write. This afternoon I’m going to visit some Starwood hotels and speak to the general managers. I’m looking forward to hearing the street-corner perspective now that I’ve heard about China from the top.
In other news
Some interesting news has been released in other industries while I’ve been here. Starbucks prepared for China to become its largest market under its new organizational structure, which will now break out the country as its own division for the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. It plans to have 1,000 locations by 2015.
And there is much angst surrounding the expected retirement of Chinese NBA player Yao Ming. While there seems to be a love-hate relationship with Western popular culture, many Chinese express great pride in his athleticism. A story in today’s Shanghai Daily claims the NBA could expect to see a decreased interest in the sport from Chinese fans with this retirement.
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