Global Traveler: Tell us about your career at Starwood.
Hoyt H. Harper II: I have been in the travel industry most of my adult life. I started with the Sheraton brand in 1991. When ITT Sheraton and Starwood Hotels & Resorts came together, I was given the opportunity to launch Starwood Preferred Guest, which reinvigorated the hotel industry and is now the leading frequent stay program, having just won its sixth “Best Program” Freddie Award in six consecutive years.
In September 2002, I was given the responsibility of repositioning the Four Points by Sheraton brand, a task that has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. Prior to this, the brand was somewhat “rudderless” and lacked focus. My first step was to consult with an alliance of franchise owners on the direction of the brand, and over the past three years we have maintained their support and incorporated their feedback into everything we’ve done. The Four Points by Sheraton brand is now quickly becoming what it should be: an independent member of the Starwood collection that shares the same standard of quality as the other brands in the family, but delights its customers in its own distinct way.
I feel that Four Points by Sheraton can easily become Starwood’s largest brand.
GT: What makes Four Points by Sheraton unique?
HH: Four Points by Sheraton fits within the upper tier of mid-scale hotel chains. We like to call the segment “moderately priced.”
When I took the lead of the Four Points by Sheraton brand, I checked in with our customers to see what they valued most in a hotel stay. We found that our segment had convinced customers to have low expectations, and that the most significant factor in their hotel selection was a clean and well-maintained property. Consequently, we started to enforce a stringent “Improve or Remove” policy, and since 2002, half of the 121 original hotels have been removed. In addition, by June of next year over half of our hotels will be new or newly renovated. It is a whole new approach to working with our franchise partners that promotes efficiency and quality.
We continue to focus on getting the basics right. It’s the first step to winning our customers’ trust. Our rooms have been outfitted with our plush new Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort Bed, which is an amazing sleep experience. It also has a light-colored duvet. We deliberately moved away from the dark colors and floral patterns that other hotels like to use because they hide soiling. Light colors require more-frequent cleaning, and we feel this is a more honest approach to meeting our guests’ most fundamental needs. We believe in honesty and a straightforward relationship with our guests.
We are also working on new bathroom amenities. We feel that when our customers want to take our products home with them, then we have done a good job. This imminent strategy includes partnerships with the makers of our products that will allow our customers to purchase the products they like online. It will cost us more, but it is well worth it, and our franchise owners are fully on board with us. We are focusing on the things that touch our customer’s body: shower curtains and a curved curtain rod for more elbow room; thick, plush towels; and a great amenity line, as well as the sheets and duvet of the Four Comfort Bed.
In essence, we are delivering a kind of comfort and style that is new to the segment. We’re also planning to exceed our guests’ expectations by connecting with them on a personal and emotional level. We know that being on the road can be tough — and we’re making Four Points by Sheraton into a special place where you can put your feet up and feel good.
In a segment that is defined by cookie-cutter sameness, Four Points by Sheraton stands out. Our locally relevant designs are always in tune with the local “lifestyle.” Our hotel in Chelsea, Manhattan, is distinctly urban and vibrant while maintaining the comfort that defines our brand. Our “New Homestead” look is a cozy, family room–inspired concept for our smaller urban and suburban locations as well as our prototype. The “Getaway” concept is right for our ever-growing number of hotels in resort and vacation destinations. Our development pipeline is more robust than ever, with locations from Chicago to Soho, Manhattan, to Québec City and across the globe. Four Points by Sheraton strives to be the largest brand in the Starwood portfolio, without taking away from our other brands.
GT: Who is your typical clientele?
HH: Our typical guests are married and between 35 and 55 years old, split fairly evenly between male and female. Often they are Sheraton or Westin guests who use a variety of Starwood hotels for different travel occasions. For instance, they may choose a Westin in the Caribbean for a romantic weekend getaway, but for a trip with the entire family they choose Four Points by Sheraton.
Our hotels appeal to self-sufficient travelers, who like to feel in control and don’t need to be fussed over. They like local flavor and meeting new people, but they truly like to be close to home — at least in their hearts and minds. They’re uncomplicated people, but they do enjoy delightful moments that exceed their expectations and make them feel special, even when they are away from home.
COMO Hotels and Resorts offers travelers new immersive luxury retreats for 2022. Perfect for couples, small groups or solo travelers, the new COMO Journeys are available to book in Australia, Bhutan, Indonesia and Thailand.
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Anantara Chiang Mai, the deluxe resort on the banks of Thailand’s Mae Ping River, relaunched the city’s most famous high tea experience, served on the terrace of the 100-year-old British Consulate that today houses the resort’s Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar.
The Hotel Bel-Air hosts a new end-of-summer BBQ with Master Chef Wolfgang Puck on the lawn of the hotel. The event is back after a three-year hiatus, set to take place Sept. 6. Guests will be able to enjoy an evening featuring backyard-style barbeque and seasonal summer favorites.
IHG® Hotels & Resorts certainly has a lot to celebrate, starting with an incredible growth story. Over the past five years, IHG has acquired or launched six new brands: Six Senses® Hotels Resorts Spas, Regent® Hotels & Resorts, Vignette™ Collection, voco™ hotels, avid® hotels and Atwell Suites™. Most recently, IHG reached an important milestone with its 6,000th open hotel. The company looks to further expand its portfolio by 30 percent with 1,800 hotels in the development pipeline, with significant focus on growth in the luxury segment where IHG is positioned as one of the top two hotel chains.
The Oberoi, Marrakech introduces its new holistic wellness program, SAHA. Meaning health in Arabic, SAHA aims to help guests reach their full wellbeing potential. The program operates on four key cornerstones: soul & spirit, active body, holistic treatments and a better plate.
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Emerald Cruises christened its newest Star-Ship, Emerald Luna, in a ceremony in Amsterdam as it prepares to sail the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers of Europe. Equipped to host up to 180 guests, Emerald Luna saw many members of Scenic Group, the parent company of Emerald Cruises, attend the ceremony, including U.S. travel industry advocate and educator Vanessa McGovern, who took honors as godmother during the ceremony.