The following Company Overview is excerpted from the Company's 2011 10-K. A full copy of the 10-K is available by clicking here.
We are one of the world's largest hotel and leisure companies. We conduct our hotel and leisure business both directly and through our subsidiaries. Our brand names include the following:
(luxury full-service hotels, resorts and residences) is for connoisseurs who desire the finest expressions of luxury. They provide flawless and bespoke service to high-end leisure and business travelers. St. Regis hotels are located in the ultimate locations within the world’s most desired destinations, important emerging markets and yet to be discovered paradises, and they typically have individual design characteristics to capture the distinctive personality of each location.
The Luxury Collection®
(luxury full-service hotels and resorts) is a group of unique hotels and resorts offering exceptional service to an elite clientele. From legendary palaces and remote retreats to timeless modern classics, these remarkable hotels and resorts enable the most discerning traveler to collect a world of unique, authentic and enriching experiences indigenous to each destination that capture the sense of both luxury and place. They are distinguished by magnificent decor, spectacular settings and impeccable service.
(luxury and upscale full-service hotels, retreats and residences) is where iconic design and cutting-edge lifestyle set the stage for exclusive and extraordinary experiences. Each hotel and retreat is uniquely inspired by its destination, where innovative design is inspired by local influences and creates energizing spaces to play or work by day or mix and mingle out by night. Guests are invited into extraordinary environments that combine entertainment, vibrant lounges, modern guestrooms, and innovative cocktail culture and cuisine. The beats per minute increase as the day transitions to night, amplifying the scene in every W Living Room for guests to socialize and see and be seen. W Hotels Worldwide, a global design powerhouse brought to life through W Happenings, exclusive partnerships and the signature Whatever/Whenever® promises to grant its guests and local community alike access to What’s New/Next.
(luxury and upscale full-service hotels, resorts and residences) provides innovative programs and instinctive services which transform every aspect of a guest’s stay into a revitalizing experience. Indulge in a deliciously wholesome menu including exclusive SuperFoodsRx® dishes. Energize in the fitness studio with the industry-leading WestinWORKOUT®. Revive in the Heavenly® Bath where luxurious touches create a spa-like experience. And of course, experience truly restorative sleep in the world-renowned Heavenly® Bed—an oasis of lush sheets, down, and patented pillow-top mattress. Whether an epic city center location or refreshing resort destination, Westin ensures guests leave feeling better than when they arrived. Westin. For A Better You.
(luxury and upscale full-service hotels, resorts and residences) is a Paris-born hotel brand, currently represented by approximately 100 properties in 43 countries worldwide. Le Méridien aims to target the creative mind: an audience inspired by creativity who are eager to learn something new and see things in a different light. A curated approach towards the arts connects Le Méridien with the creative mind in an authentic and credible way. A cultural curator was engaged, responsible for integrating the arts into the guest experience and identifying the appropriate creative talents, a family of cultural innovators, LM100 TM, to define and enrich the guest experience through their dedicated tailor-made creations. This esteemed group comprises of a global array of visionaries, from painters to photographers, musicians to designers and chefs. Le Méridien is more than a hotel, it’s a way of life that provides “A New Perspective”.
(luxury and upscale full-service hotels, resorts and residences) is our largest brand serving the needs of upscale business and leisure travelers worldwide. For over 75 years this full-service, iconic brand has welcomed guests, becoming a trusted friend to travelers and one of the world’s most recognized hotel brands. From being the first hotel brand to step into major international markets like China, to completely captivating entire destinations like Waikiki, Sheraton understands that travel is about bringing people together. In Sheraton lobbies you’ll find the Link@SheratonSM experienced with Microsoft. The Sheraton Club is a social space where guests indulge in the upside of everything. Sheraton Fitness programmed by Core Performance, our signature fitness program, brings guests together as they train and eat healthy on the road. Sheraton transcends lifestyles, generations and geographies and will continue to welcome generation after generation of world travelers as The World’s Gathering Place.
(select-service hotels) delights the self-sufficient traveler with what is needed for greater comfort and productivity. Great Hotels. Great Rates. All at the honest value our guests deserve. Our guests start their day feeling energized and finish up relaxed, maybe even with one of our Best Brews (local craft beer). It’s the little indulgences that make their time away from home special.
(select-service hotels) first opened in 2008. It will already be opening its 55th property in 2012. Aloft provides new heights: an oasis where you least expect it, a spirited neighborhood outpost, a haven at the side of the road. Bringing a cozy harmony of modern elements to the classic on-the-road tradition, Aloft offers a sassy, refreshing, ultra effortless alternative for both the business and leisure traveler. Fresh, fun, and fulfilling, Aloft is an experience to be discovered and rediscovered, destination after destination, as you ease on down the road. Style at a Steal.
(extended stay hotels), a brand introduced in 2006 with the first hotel opened in 2008, provides a modern, upscale and intuitively designed hotel experience that allows guests to live well and feel in control. Inspired by Westin, Element hotels promote balance through a thoughtful, upscale environment. Decidedly modern with an emphasis on nature, Element is intuitively constructed with an efficient use of space that encourages guests to stay connected, feel alive, and thrive while they are away. Primarily all Element hotels are LEED certified, depicting the importance of the environment in today’s world. Space to live your life. Through our brands, we are well represented in most major markets around the world. Our operations are reported in two business segments, hotels and vacation ownership and residential operations.
Our revenue and earnings are derived primarily from hotel operations, which include management and other fees earned from hotels we manage pursuant to management contracts, the receipt of franchise and other fees and the operation of our owned hotels.
Our hotel business emphasizes the global operation of hotels and resorts primarily in the luxury and upscale segment of the lodging industry. We seek to acquire interests in, or management or franchise rights with respect to properties in this segment. At December 31, 2011, our hotel portfolio included owned, leased, managed and franchised hotels totaling 1,076 hotels with approximately 315,300 rooms in approximately 100 countries, and is comprised of 59 hotels that we own or lease or in which we have a majority equity interest, 518 hotels managed by us on behalf of third-party owners (including entities in which we have a minority equity interest) and 499 hotels for which we receive franchise fees.
Our revenues and earnings are also derived from the development, ownership and operation of vacation ownership resorts, marketing and selling vacation ownership interests (“VOIs”) in the resorts and providing financing to customers who purchase such interests. Generally these resorts are marketed under the brand names described above. Additionally, our revenue and earnings are derived from the development, marketing and selling of residential units at mixed use hotel projects owned by us as well as fees earned from the marketing and selling of residential units at mixed use hotel projects developed by third-party owners of hotels operated under our brands. At December 31, 2011, we had 22 owned vacation ownership resorts and residential properties (including 13 stand-alone, eight mixed-use and one unconsolidated joint venture) in the United States, Mexico and the Bahamas.
Due to the global economic crisis and its impact on the long-term growth outlook for the timeshare industry, in 2009 we evaluated all of our existing vacation ownership projects, as well as land held for future vacation ownership projects. At that time, we decided not to initiate any new vacation ownership projects. We also decided not to develop certain vacation ownership sites and future phases of certain existing projects. As the economy and market conditions improved in 2011, we commenced construction on a future phase at one timeshare location where we had ceased development.
Our operations are in geographically diverse locations around the world. The following tables reflect our hotel and vacation ownership and residential properties by type of revenue source and geographical presence by major geographic area as of December 31, 2011:
Number of Properties
Managed and unconsolidated joint venture hotels
Vacation ownership resorts and stand-alone properties
(a) Includes wholly owned, majority owned and leased hotels.
Number of Properties
North America (and Caribbean)
Africa and the Middle East
We have implemented a strategy of reducing our investment in owned real estate and increasing our focus on the management and franchise business. In furtherance of this strategy, since 2006, we have sold 65 hotels for approximately $5.6 billion. As a result, our primary business objective is to maximize earnings and cash flow by increasing the number of our hotel management contracts and franchise agreements; selling VOIs; and investing in real estate assets where there is a strategic rationale for doing so, which may include selectively acquiring interests in additional assets and disposing of non-core hotels (including hotels where the return on invested capital is not adequate) and “trophy” assets that may be sold at significant premiums. We plan to meet these objectives by leveraging our global assets, broad customer base and other resources and by taking advantage of our scale to reduce costs. The implementation of our strategy and financial planning is impacted by the uncertainty relating to geopolitical and economic environments around the world and its consequent impact on travel.
The Corporation was incorporated in 1980 under the laws of Maryland. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Westin Hotels & Resorts, Starwood’s largest brands, have been serving guests for more than 60 years. Starwood Vacation Ownership (and its predecessor, Vistana, Inc.) has been selling VOIs for more than 20 years.
Our principal executive offices are located at One StarPoint, Stamford, Connecticut 06902, and our telephone number is (203) 964-6000.
For a full discussion of our revenues, profits, assets and geographical segments, see our consolidated financial statements of this Annual Report, including the notes thereto. For additional information concerning our business, see Item 2 Properties, of this Annual Report.
The hotel and timeshare industry is highly competitive. Competition is generally based on quality and consistency of room, restaurant and meeting facilities and services, attractiveness of locations, availability of a global distribution system, price, the ability to earn and redeem loyalty program points and other factors. Management believes that we compete favorably in these areas. Our properties compete with other hotels and resorts in their geographic markets, including facilities owned by local interests and facilities owned by national and international chains. Our principal competitors include other hotel operating companies, national and international hotel brands, and ownership companies (including hotel REITs).
We encounter strong competition as a hotel, resort, residential and vacation ownership operator. While some of our competitors are private management firms, several are large national and international chains that own and operate their own hotels, as well as manage hotels for third-party owners and sell VOIs, under a variety of brands that compete directly with our brands.
We operate in a highly competitive industry and our intellectual property, including brands, logos, trademarks, service marks, and trade dress is an important component of our business. The success of our business depends, in part, on the increase in awareness of our brands and our ability to further develop our brands globally through the use of our intellectual property. To that end, we apply to register, register and renew our intellectual property, enforce our rights against the unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties; and otherwise protect our intellectual property through strategies and in jurisdictions where we reasonably deem appropriate.
We are subject to certain requirements and potential liabilities under various foreign and U.S. federal, state and local environmental laws, ordinances and regulations (“Environmental Laws”). Under such laws, we could be held liable for the costs of removing or cleaning up hazardous or toxic substances at, on, under, or in our currently or formerly owned or operated properties. Such laws often impose liability without regard to whether the owner or operator knew of, or was responsible for, the presence of such hazardous or toxic substances. The presence of hazardous or toxic substances may adversely affect the owner’s ability to sell or rent such real property or to borrow using such real property as collateral. Persons who arrange for the disposal or treatment of hazardous or toxic wastes may be liable for the costs of removal or remediation of such wastes at the treatment, storage or disposal facility, regardless of whether such facility is owned or operated by such person. We use certain substances and generate certain wastes that may be deemed hazardous or toxic under applicable Environmental Laws, and we from time to time have incurred, and in the future may incur, costs related to cleaning up contamination resulting from historic uses of certain of our current or former properties or our treatment, storage or disposal of wastes at facilities owned by others. Other Environmental Laws govern occupational exposure to asbestos-containing materials (“ACMs”) and require abatement or removal of certain ACMs (limited quantities of which are present in various building materials such as spray-on insulation, floor coverings, ceiling coverings, tiles, decorative treatments and piping located at certain of our hotels) in the event of damage or demolition, or certain renovations or remodeling. Environmental Laws also regulate polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”), which may be present in electrical equipment. A number of our hotels have underground storage tanks (“USTs”) and equipment containing chlorofluorocarbons (“CFCs”); the operation and subsequent removal or upgrading of certain USTs and the use of equipment containing CFCs also are regulated by Environmental Laws. In connection with our ownership, operation and management of our properties, we could be held liable for costs of remedial or other action with respect to PCBs, USTs or CFCs.
Congress and some states are considering or have undertaken actions to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New or revised laws and regulations or new interpretations of existing laws and regulations, such as those related to climate change, could affect the operation of our hotels and/or result in significant additional expense and operating restrictions. The cost impact of such legislation, regulation, or new interpretations would depend upon the specific requirements enacted and cannot be determined at this time.
Environmental Laws are not the only source of environmental liability. Under common law, owners and operators of real property may face liability for personal injury or property damage because of various environmental conditions such as alleged exposure to hazardous or toxic substances (including, but not limited to, ACMs, PCBs and CFCs), poor indoor air quality, radon or poor drinking water quality.
Although we have incurred and expect to incur remediation and various environmental-related costs during the ordinary course of operations, management does not anticipate that such costs will have a material adverse effect on our operations or financial condition.
Seasonality and Diversification
The hotel industry is seasonal in nature; however, the periods during which our properties experience higher revenue activities vary from property to property and depend principally upon location. Generally, our revenues and operating income have been lower in the first quarter than in the second, third or fourth quarters.
Comparability of Owned Hotel Results
We continually update and renovate our owned, leased and consolidated joint venture hotels. While undergoing renovation, these hotels are generally not operating at full capacity and, as such, these renovations can negatively impact our owned hotel revenues and operating income. Other events, such as the occurrence of natural disasters may cause a full or partial closure or sale of a hotel, and such events can negatively impact our revenues and operating income. Finally, as we pursue our strategy of reducing our investment in owned real estate assets, the sale of such assets can significantly reduce our revenues and operating income from owned, leased and consolidated joint venture hotels.