Starwood CEO sees more demand for luxury

St Regis Hotel, Florence, Italy

Nouveaux riches leisure travelers around the world are craving luxury, and companies are becoming confident enough to send more travelers on the road – a combination that Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Paasschen says helped his company see better-than-anticipated results so far this year.

“Last quarter, we suggested 2012 has more potential to surprise on the upside, and we still believe this. Our corporate clients and leisure guests tell us the appetite for travel is quite robust,” van Paaschen told Wall Street analysts during Thursday’s quarterly earnings call. “I still have yet to hear from a customer that plans to travel less in 2012 than in 2011.” He also added: luxury travel is bouncing back, boosting results at Starwood’s highest-end chains such as St. Regis.

As demand grows, we’re also seeing a change in luxury consumption as travelers become more connected, more diverse and more sophisticated. Luxury is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition. What once was prescribed is now personalized, with less formality and more fun. New experiences and discovery matter more than extravagance and status. Starwood, he told analysts, is “uniquely suited to benefit from these major shifts” with about 150 hotels marketed as luxury.