Imagine feeling the balmy sea breeze blowing in your face. It's hard not to be distracted while you are right in the midst of beachside action at W Barcelona. Or soaking in a beautiful sunset at Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort.
Beachfront hotels and resorts may provide the oasis that draws flocks of leisure visitors, but these properties are also the settings of meetings and incentives groups who are out to mix business with pleasure.
Inspiring settings have opened up a haven of options for corporate events, and Starwood is one of the hotel chains that are competing to provide novel experiences. Priding itself on being an industry game changer, Starwood's strategies include growing its footprint worldwide, expanding its sales organisations around the world to promote its properties, and constantly innovating product offerings.
Says Nichlas Maratos, vice president of sales, Asia Pacific, Starwood Hotels & Resorts: "We have hotels that can accommodate small intimate meetings, luxury incentive meetings, team building and large-scale meetings. We also have properties such as the Sheraton Macao Hotel that can cater to large-scale meetings because they have huge function space on-site or because they are connected to convention spaces such as The Westin Resort Nusa Dua in Bali, The Westin Langkawi and the soon-to-re-open Four Points by Sheraton, Darling Harbour, Sydney."
Last year, Starwood launched SPG Pro, the all-new, comprehensive loyalty programme for meetings and travel professionals. This programme allows Starwood to provide a personalised service for its global customers and members and to reward them with Starpoints for the business that they influence. The more members booked, the more they earn, which means access to everything SPG has to offer and reaching elite status even faster through B2B and personal bookings.
As a company, Starwood has been quick to embrace new technology in engaging guests. Starwood is hard at work piloting and testing digital and mobile innovations in its hotels. This year, Starwood has piloted several new initiatives to increase convenience for Starwood's guests including SPG Keyless App, which does away with the need for a room key and the SPG App for Applewatch, which allows members easy access to their accounts.
Says Maratos: "Most recently, we announced our partnership with Cvent, a leading cloud-based enterprise event management platform and PSAV, a technology service provider, to offer CrowdCompass by Cvent mobile apps to planners who are booking meetings and events at our properties."
With the option of having a customisable app with CrowdCompass by Cvent, attendees can access real- time content such as agendas, speaker bios, presentations and property information via their mobile devices. The app can also be used to create personalised schedules, share contact information with other attendees, connect with others via social media and receive push messages from onsite meeting planners.
Meeting planners will also see new meeting venues in the luxury space as Starwood's luxury brands continue their expansion across Asia Pacific. Ultra-luxury The St. Regis brand recently opened its first hotel in India, The St. Regis Mumbai and is set to debut in Macau and Langkawi this year.
The opening of Four Points by Sheraton Makassar, on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, marks Makassar's largest convention centre totalling approximately 6,500sqm, with the largest ballroom providing 3,200sqm.
Starwood maintains a clear distinction among its hotel brands although there are common threads. In advocating sustainability, Starwood's hotels offer clutter-free meetings facilities, which lessen wastage of note paper and pens among other things. In June this year, Starwood launched "Sheraton 2020", a five-year, 10-point plan designed to put Sheraton Hotels and Resorts back in the global spotlight. The plan includes the launch of a new premier tier, Sheraton Grand, and continual innovation of the Sheraton guest experience.
Besides Sheraton, Starwood's other brands have also amassed loyal fans. The W brand brings an avant-garde attitude to meetings with fun and innovative breaks and F&B selections while The Westin brand promotes wellness and offers well-being themed meetings breaks with healthy snack options, energy boosting beverages and activities during break times.