Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide knows how to shine a light on hospitality. One of the world's largest hotel companies, it has more than 1,000 properties in about 100 countries. Starwood's hotel empire consists of upscale brands such as Sheraton and Westin. It operates about 100 luxury resorts and hotels through its St. Regis and Luxury Collection units, while its 40 W Hotels offer ultra-modern style. Other brands include Four Points (value-oriented), Le Méridien (European-inspired), Aloft (select-service), and Element (extended stay). Starwood Vacation Ownership operates about 15 time-share resorts. Notable Starwood hotels include the St. Regis in New York and the Hotel Gritti Palace in Venice.
While the US economy continues to show signs of a recovery, business travel is on the rise. As a result, the company posted gains in revenue and net income in 2011 in response to a steady return in demand for hotel rooms. Starwood's revenue per available room, a key indicator of business performance in the hotel industry, increased by 7.4% in 2011 compared to 2010. The company also received an income tax benefit of approximately $92 million in 2011, primarily as a result of the favorable settlement of an IRS audit and tax benefits associated with asset sales.
Starwood's strategy involves a reduction of its investment in owned real estate and an increased focus on its management and franchise operations, a business model that is associated with lower costs. Since 2006, Starwood has sold 65 hotels for approximately $5.6 billion. Today, the company owns, leases, or has a majority stake in about 60 properties. Some 500 of Starwood's hotels are owned and operated by franchisees, while another 515 are managed on behalf of third parties or owned through joint ventures.
Development efforts include the newly constructed St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, the first luxury hotel to open in Miami in 2012. The Bal Harbour property also includes private residences for sale; in the fourth quarter of 2011 Bal Harbour closed on the sale of 36 units.
For international expansion, Starwood is focused on Asia, which it sees as a key emerging market. About 60% of its development pipeline consists of new properties in Asia/Pacific, and 44% represents new growth in China specifically.
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