The Starwood hotel group with 1,270 hotels in over 100 countries is one of the smaller American competitors, but a favorite of many US business travelers. While the Sheraton brand is the best known and most frequent brand, it’s the more upscale Westin and W brands that have shaped the image of this group. Apparently, Starwood wasn’t big enough: recently Marriott, one of the largest hotel groups in the world, announced plans to acquire Starwood. Find out more about the brands, regions and price categories and how Starwood compares to the other chains!
Regions: Of all the hotel groups I have reviewed so far, Starwood is the most evenly distributed hotel group. With 55% of hotels in the Americas, 24% in Asia and 21% in Europe, Starwood has a much bigger footprint in Europe and Asia than the other American chains. It has more hotels in Asia than Hilton or Marriott who are almost 4 times the size! This is one of the reasons Starwood and the SPG rewards program are so popular with US business travelers: They have hotels in all the major US cities to earn points on business trips – and then redeem these points for stays around the world!
Brands: Despite its smaller size, Starwood has 10 different brands (the same as Hilton). The largest and best known brand with 35% of all properties is Sheraton. Unfortunately, Sheraton has lost some shine over the years with poor brand standards and many of sub-par properties. Westin, the second biggest brand at 16%, is much more popular, thanks to their great design and innovate features, like the Heavenly Bed! Four Points (16% of hotels) is a mid-scale brand that is overshadowed by the less frequent but more stylish aloft brand. There are also the very stylish W, the luxury St. Regis and the eco-friendly Element brands, as well as a collection of non-branded “Luxury Collection” hotels. There is a good amount of overlap between the brands and it will be interesting to see, how Marriott will handle the acquisition.
Price: Off all the chains I have reviewed so far, Starwood is the most upscale hotel group. More than 14% of the properties fall into the luxury category (Marriott is next with only 6%) with properties like St. Regis or W. A further 60% are upscale hotels like Westin or Le Meridien. That high percentage of upscale and luxury hotels is another reason for the popularity among US business travelers: If your company pays for it, you stay at nice hotels and earn points to redeem for a luxury vacation later on! Starwood has few mid-scale properties and no extended stay or limited service hotels, which have seen a lot of growth in recent years, and a contributing factor for Starwood to look for an acquisition!
If you are a frequent business traveler in the US and your company has contracts with Starwood or covers the rates, they are a great choice. I used to stay frequently with them while my business travel was focused on the US – and I enjoyed award stays around the world!
Unfortunately, while Starwood has a lot of properties in Europe and Asia, they seem to target US business travelers and are often overpriced in comparison to local competition. That makes Starwood less interesting to leisure travelers and cost conscious business travelers abroad, as you can find much better value elsewhere!