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Monday, July 20, 2009

Starwood in talks for more hotel investments in Malaysia

STARWOOD Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc, which operates hotel brands like Sheraton, Westin and Le Meridien, is in talks with several parties for new hotel openings in Malaysia.

The group, which is bullish about the future of the local hospitality industry, is in various stages of negotiations to expand its footprint in the country.

Its on-going talks could result in the group having representations outside the prime locations of Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.

"We are in serious discussion with six parties for not only Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur, but also secondary states," director of acquisition and development for Starwood Asia Pacific, Rajit Sukumaran, told Business Times in an interview.

The group hopes to expand its brands to include Penang, Malacca and the Iskandar Development Region in Johor.

"We are constantly expanding and our development mantra is the 'right partner, right place and right positioning'," he said.

The brand best suited for the location will be used, even if the brand is already in the locality nearby.

Starwood has nine hotel brands including Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, St Regis, W Hotels and a loft.

When asked why Starwood is keen on Malaysia when hotels rates here are said to be one of the lowest in the world, Rajit said: "We see hotels as a long-term investment. Year-on-year there is growth in tourist arrivals. We are bullish about Malaysia especially the hospitality industry."

Today, Starwood operates eight hotels in Malaysia with a total room inventory of 2,800. These hotels include Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu, Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur, Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort, The Westin Kuala Lumpur, The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa and Four Points by Sheraton Kuching.

The Starwood family in Malaysia is set to grow with two new confirmed openings - the 300-room Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan, Sabah in 2011 and a 200-room luxury category The St Regis Kuala Lumpur in 2014.

Starwood, Rajit said, is confident that Malaysia has a market for a luxury brand like St Regis.

When the hotel opens, it will join at least two other luxury brands which are scheduled to open at an earlier date - Four Seasons Place in Kuala Lumpur and The Raffles Kuala Lumpur.

"There are quite a few luxury brands coming into the market ... with the right opportunity and location given, our (St Regis') rates will be comparable with our competitors," he said.

Worldwide, the Starwood group operates 950 hotels in 100 countries with a total room inventory of 287,000.

By Business Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

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