US hotel giant relocates global HQ to Dubai

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Frits van Paasschen, Starwood president and CEO.

Frits van Paasschen, Starwood president and CEO.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has announced the beginning of a month-long relocation of its global headquarters from Stamford in the US to Dubai.

Until April 5, Frits van Paasschen, Starwood president and CEO, and the company's top executives will conduct day-to-day business from Dubai.

The team will meet with associates, customers, owners and prospective developers in the UAE and also take advantage of Dubai's location for business travel to destinations including Mumbai, Addis Ababa, Jeddah, Dushanbe and Kuwait, Starwood said in a statement.

The move to Dubai follows the company's successful relocation to China in June 2011.

"With 80 percent of Starwood's pipeline coming from rapidly growing markets, it is simply not possible to lead a truly global business from a boardroom in Connecticut," said van Paasschen.

"Rising wealth and ever greater global connectivity are creating a once-in-a-lifetime growth opportunity for our business - by fueling new demand, changing travel patterns, and entirely new travel markets.

"Dubai epitomises this changing face of travel, and we expect this relocation will deepen our relationships with partners, associates and customers. Just as with our one-month relocation to China in 2011, our time in-market will spark new ideas that will fortify our position as the most global high-end hotel company," he added.

During the course of the relocation, more than 200 Starwood executives and GMs from the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America will travel to Dubai as the company runs day-to-day operations almost 7,000 miles and a nine-hour time zone away from its usual HQ outside New York City.

Starwood said the Middle East continues to evolve as an international business and leisure travel hub with Dubai now home to many multinational corporations, consultants, banks and university campuses.

In 2012, Dubai International Airport counted approximately 58 million visitors, a number which is expected to grow at annual rates above 10 percent, and the airport is expected to be the world's largest in terms of international passenger traffic by 2015.

Van Paasschen added: "We are on the cusp of a new golden age of travel, and Dubai is at the epicenter of this sea change."

Starwood has seen a significant increase in demand for luxury in all corners of the world, including the Middle East.

With the opening of W Doha in 2009, Starwood introduced a new luxury hotel category in the Middle East, and plans are underway to open new W hotels in Amman, Muscat, and Abu Dhabi as well as two W properties in Dubai.

Following the W brand's debut, Starwood introduced its St Regis brand into the Middle East with the 2011 opening of The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (Abu Dhabi).

St Regis has since opened in Doha and will this year unveil a second St. Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi, located on the Corniche.

Starwood also continues to grow its Luxury Collection brand in the UAE and will debut in the Emirate of Ajman in 2014.

"Working day-to-day in a different market allows you to see the world through a different lens," said van Paasschen. "The insights that come from experiences like this move make us more agile in today's rapidly changing world."

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