Brian Povinelli, global brand leader for Le Méridien Hotels, part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, is responsible for the strategic direction of the brand – leading development and execution of marketing strategies, guest experiences as well as communication.
BBT caught up Brian Povinelli, to discuss his hotel background, expanding the brand globally and future developments…
Could you give an overview of your experience and background?
Before joining Starwood Hotels and Resorts ten years ago, I was the VP of global integrated marketing at Reebok.
Since working for Starwood, I have been fortunate to be involved in several of their hotel brands. I led global brand marketing for Sheraton and have worked with Westin in North America, before becoming global brand leader for Westin and for Le Meridien five years ago.
From the eight new hotels opened by Le Méridien, which region / hotel is performing the best?
We’ve experienced the biggest growth in North America and have opened new hotels in Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans and Indianapolis. We have transformed a century-old courthouse and Beaux-Arts landmark in downtown Tampa and debuted a newly built, modern hotel, which boasts an art collection second-to-none in Columbus.
On average two years post-conversion, Le Méridien hotels in North America have increased market share by more than 10 percent and our portfolio in this region (North America) now stands at 28.
Currently, Le Méridien has a portfolio of more than 100 hotels and resorts in 37 different countries. And with the brand poised to continue its rapid, but sustainable, expansion, it plans to open approximately 30 new hotels in the next three to four years.
Could you tell me about the Le Méridien portfolio and any new European developments?
Le Méridien has the strongest portfolio from all of the hotel brands under the Starwood umbrella.
Over the last three years, European developments have included the renovation of more than 50 per cent of our properties.
The range of upper scale hotel brands in Europe is greater than ever – what are you doing to attract business travellers?
Attracting both business and leisure travellers alike, Le Méridien Hub offers a central signature concept. The unique lobby experience provides a café atmosphere which sets the scene for guests to socialise and exchange ideas in a curated environment.
It aims to reflect the brand’s ‘Destination Unlocked’ ethos and looks to hero local, cultural ‘touchpoints’ – encompassing art, music and cocktails and cuisine influences.
Other that the European portfolio, please comment on which markets you’re looking to penetrate and invest heavily in?
Le Méridien has experienced tremendous growth across Asia. In 2015, Le Méridien opened seven hotels in the region, including its first hotel in Bangladesh.
This year will see expansion in both established markets and emerging destinations throughout Asia Pacific, in particular; China, India and Malaysia. And as an overview, we plan to open four hotels in Taiwan, four hotels in India, Le Méridien Putrajaya in Malaysia, two hotels in Shanghai as well as ten hotels in secondary and tertiary markets in China.
Looking ahead to 2017, the brand will; open in Fort Lauderdale following a $30 million renovation and conversion, debut in Denver, as part of a dual-branded hotel development in the downtown district and premiere in Houston following a full restoration.
Has Airbnb and the sharing economy impacted the business?
No, Airbnb is not impacting the business directly at the moment. However, it is an interesting model, and one to monitor, as more people search for local, flexible and interesting experiences.
Le Méridien and Starwood have a high amount of business travellers and the likes of Airbnb haven’t cracked the business market yet and may well not do so as business travellers, we find, prefer the hotel experience.
What is the future for the brand?
The focus this year is on renovation and each hotel is and will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as each with help tell a different but brilliantly unique story.
How do customers differ across different markets and is the customer profile changing?
We find service expectations to differ across regions, alongside with the economics of staffing.
In Asia, the market has higher service expectations which can be met because of affordable staffing costs. In Europe and North America, travellers are more self-sufficient, which is great as staffing costs are higher.
Many of the Starwood brands are seeing a shift towards the ‘Millennial Generation’ or ‘Generation X’ – a younger demographic that has more western attitudes.