The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa

The sale of Starwood Hotels & Resorts to Marriott International is a “tremendous opportunity”, according to the global brand leader for the Westin and Le Méridien brands.

Starwood senior vice president Brian Povinelli told Hotelier Middle East: “The opportunity is tremendous, with the combination of their operational excellence and our branding excellence. It will take us from a portfolio of 1,400 hotels to one of 5,500 hotels.

“The scale that would bring and the investment that would allow, and the technical platforms… We’d have the ability to make the company the leader in the hospitality space.”

Speaking at the official launch of the Westin Doha, Povinelli added that the deal would create broader career opportunities for associates, and a wider choice for guests.

He also denied that the management of so many hotel brands under one umbrella would be confusing for customers. “If I’m a consumer, those 31 brands exist already – we’re not creating more. If it’s going to confuse them, then they’re already confused."

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There are no plans to rationalise any of the brands of a combined entity, according to Povinelli, or to switch hotels between the brands. “Those brands are dictated by the licence agreements. You can’t just turn off a brand. We could if we owned all the hotels. But we and Marriott only own around 10% of our properties.

“So if there’s a 30-year licensing agreement, then that’s going to take time. There is a natural evolution when licensing agreements come up [for renewal]. And with 5,500 hotels, a few will be coming up every week.”

But he estimates that just 1% of Westin hotels, given the opportunity, would fit better under a different brand. “It’s a very small percentage.”

Povinelli conceded that Starwood’s and Marriott’s loyalty programmes would need to come together, albeit not from day one. “It would be too confusing for the customer to manage both [within the same group].”

He added that a well-travelled guest might currently carry four hotel loyalty cards. “So for them to have one less programme to navigate, that could actually bring more clarity than confusion. We will have to do a good job in the transition, but it could actually help to clean things up for consumers.”