Sheraton Nearly Done With $6 Billion Brand Overhaul - Business Travel News

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Sheraton Nearly Done With $6 Billion Brand Overhaul

October 02, 2009 - 12:00 AM ET

By Michael B. Baker

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is nearing completion of a $6 billion global revitalization effort, and the brand claims an uptick in business traveler satisfaction as a result.

Since December 2006, Sheraton, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, has invested $2.3 billion in opening new hotels, $1.5 billion in property renovations and $400 million on brand initiatives. The brand also invested $2 billion in improving international hotels.

In those three years, Sheraton has opened or redesigned 50,000 guest rooms and redesigned 180 Sheraton lobbies. Nearly half of the brand's North American properties have undergone renovation, said Starwood senior vice president of brand management and Sheraton head Hoyt Harper II. During the next three months, the brand will finish renovating properties in Dallas, Denver and Montreal and open the Sheraton Puerto Rico Convention Center Hotel & Casino.

Through the investment, Starwood has aimed to boost the image of the Sheraton brand, once a centerpiece of the business travel world but more recently one that has suffered in terms of guest satisfaction scores compared with its sister brands. Internal satisfaction ratings indicate the investment has paid off, according to Harper.

"We have evidence through our metrics that we've turned a big corner with image, not just with our guests but also with meeting planners," Harper said. "We're seeing record guest satisfaction scores, and the key metric-likelihood to return-is up almost a full point."

To maintain brand consistency, Sheraton as of Sept. 30 has removed its flag from 27 properties.

The centerpiece of Sheraton's lobby development has been the Link@Sheraton, a cyber-cafe-style public area offering free wireless Internet service and meeting tables. Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen said the Link would be in 95 percent of Sheraton properties worldwide by year-end.

"Consistency is a price of entry, but part of what's been the strength of the Link has been giving our brand a soul," van Paasschen said. "It's a great way to take a brand with so much heritage and give it a new handle."

Brand research has shown that about 50 percent of Sheraton guests use the Link during a stay, a higher percentage than those who eat breakfast at the hotel, use the gym or get a drink at the bar. "The only thing people do more of at those hotels is sleep," van Paasschen said.

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