Sheraton Announces New “Grand” Plans at Hospitality Conference

A brand known mostly for “big box” convention hotels, Sheraton has trophy properties in cities ranging from New York to Phoenix to Orlando. But Sheraton has apparently fallen behind competing brands like core Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt among meeting planners and other key customers, causing its parent company, Starwood Hotels &Resorts Worldwide, to unveil a major overhaul this week.

The two main takeaways: The brand will roll out a new premier tier called Sheraton Grand, which will elevate roughly 100 of Sheraton’s top hotels in gateway destinations around the world to a more luxurious experience.

Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort and Spa, Indonesia

Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort and Spa, Indonesia

There’s no question Starwood knows how to do luxury, considering its other brands include St. Regis, Le Meridien, and, yes, Luxury Collection. Given that Starwood mostly manages its properties, however, the burden will be on the Sheratons’ owners to make capital investments in their hotels in order for them to achieve Grand status.

Secondly, Starwood is trying to “reclaim” Sheraton’s reputation as a group destination. So there was a lot of talk of the brand becoming the “go-to” place for planners. As the group segment has rebounded in the past year (following on the heels of the business transient and leisure segments), it’s become clear that Sheraton’s share of the group business wasn’t what it was pre-downturn.

To ensure maximum exposure, Starwood executives chose to announce their plans at this week’s NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York (with its 2,000 heavyweight owners, developers and lenders in attendance).

Interim Starwood CEO Adam Aron and his team seemed well aware that with Sheraton the company’s largest brand, they have to “fix” Sheraton, if they’re going to get the entire enterprise moving in the right direction.

Likewise, Aron and Dave Marr, newly named Sheraton global brand leader (and Elite Meetings Advisory Board member), spoke of needing to fix the brand’s service culture. Planners can certainly understand—and appreciate—the importance of that, considering they interact with sales and operations managers at each stage of the planning process.

On a positive note, Starwood expects 150 new Sheratons to open worldwide by 2020, whether new builds or conversions. Locations range from Chicago (opening late-2017) to Cozumel, Mexico (early-2018). Many will likely qualify as Sheraton Grands. Given its long and largely distinguished history, Sheraton—a brand that dates back to 1937—has comeback before. Hopefully, it can again.

Photo Credits: Examples of current Sheraton-branded properties courtesy of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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