5 Minutes with… Guido de Wilde, senior vice president, regional director, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Middle East on the group’s challenges, key achievements and future goals.
What were the hotel group’s key achievements and milestones in 2015?
We introduced The Luxury Collection in Lebanon with the opening of the Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel and Spa, Broumana in July 2015. This marked our fifth conversion property to open in the last three years. We made our debut in Sharjah with the opening of Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort and Spa alongside launching Dubai’s first ever St. Regis in November 2015 with the opening of The St. Regis Dubai. Other milestones included the new look Le Méridien Bahrain City Centre; The signing of our first property on Palm Jumeirah – The St. Regis Dubai, The Palm; Designation of our Sheraton in Doha as Sheraton, Sheraton Grand Doha Resort and Convention Hotel. Having launched in August 2015, the new Sheraton Grand tier celebrates the brand’s best-in-class hotels, each hand-selected based on a specific list of requirements.
What have been the key challenges facing your hotel group and the hospitality sector in general and how have you met these challenges?
The region offers great opportunities but it also comes with its set of unique challenges and there remain issues relating to political instability in certain parts of the Middle East. In markets such as these, it’s extremely important for us to have the right teams in place. Another challenge continues to be the strong drive towards nationalisation by various governments. However, we believe this is a great opportunity for our hotels to bring in skilled local nationals, especially when interacting with guests because there is no one better to tell the story of a destination than a national.
What are the hotel group’s key goals for the remainder of 2016?
The Middle East is an important market for Starwood’s overall global strategy. We will continue to look for opportunities to expand our portfolio of brands in the Middle East by working with the right partners in the right places on the right properties. We remain focused on out openings for the year, in the next few months we will be introducing the first W in the UAE with W Dubai- Al Habtoor City which will then be followed by the opening of the Westin Dubai – Al Habtoor City. This summer we will also launch the Aloft brand in Saudi Arabia with openings in Riyadh and Dhahran. We will also be re-opening the Sheraton Oman in Q3 following extensive renovations of its rooms and public spaces, refreshed food and beverage outlets and extension of one of the largest ballrooms in Oman.