Starwood Preferred Guest’s ‘GO-TO’ App Launches in Chinese Language

Maldives Promotion House – Starwood Preferred Guest, the award-winning loyalty program from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., today announced its popular application for iPhone and iPod Touch devices is now available in Mandarin Chinese. The ‘go-to’ app from Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) debuted in English earlier this year, providing a guest-centric approach using new state-aware technology, localized content and customer service, and personalized social networking platforms for a seamless experience across Starwood’s nine distinct brands.

“We built the SPG app to be an all-in-one travel tool that connects our guests with the information they need to enhance the experience during their journey with us,” said Chris Holdren, Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest and Digital.  “Mobile continues to be a vital part of our business’s future, and nowhere is this more evident than China, already the world’s largest mobile market, where we have also seen significant SPG enrollment increases.”

More than 100 million Chinese are expected to travel outside of China by 2015, and these travel trends are already playing out at Starwood. China is now Starwood’s second largest market, and in 2011, SPG saw Chinese enrollment jump more than 60 percent over the previous year. To date, more than half of Starwood’s guests in China are Chinese nationals, a figure that is expected to rise as the loyalty base of SPG continues to grow.

“Technology has changed the way people relate to brands and the same goes for our Chinese guests,” said Qian Jin, President, Greater China, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. “As they continue to travel outside of China, they want more and expect more out of their experience. The localized Chinese SPG app allows our guests to arrange their travel plans in their native language and share their stories through social platforms that are relevant to them.”

Meeting the Needs of China’s Mobile Traveler
In China, hotel reservations via mobile platforms have grown rapidly over the past few years. To date, Starwood has recorded a 221 percent year-on-year increase in Chinese mobile hotel bookings, greater than the 200 percent growth trend across Asia Pacific. To better understand these travelers, Starwood partnered with Chinese mobile ad agency, Guohead, to conduct in-depth research to identify key mobile functions that are popular with and expected from Chinese guests. For instance, the study found the need to integrate locally relevant social media platforms, such as Sina Weibo and Jiepang, to allow Chinese travelers to share their experiences and stay connected to family and friends while on the road.

The survey also found that while the company continues to experience a growing trend in mobile bookings, some Chinese travelers still prefer personal booking methods. As a result, the Chinese SPG iPhone app offers a ‘call-to-book’ function that allows users to make hotel reservations directly through the Starwood customer contact center at the touch of a button. This functionality has also been integrated into the English version of the app.

Users of the Chinese language app can still employ all the same functionalities as the English version, including state-aware technology for a more personalized experience. When the latest app from SPG launched, Starwood was the first in the hospitality industry to feature a state-aware interface, allowing the app’s look, language and content to shift by brand and destination based on a guest’s upcoming or current stay. The location-based services also connect users to the closest customer contact center to ensure immediate assistance when needed. The app also stores extensive content that is easily filtered and customized, providing members with all the details of their SPG profile as well as information on upcoming and past Starwood stays.

Ahead in China’s Digital Platforms
Starwood has upped the game across its digital platforms in China in order to create personalized guest experiences and locally relevant content for Chinese guests. Last year, SPG launched a partnership campaign with Jiepang, China’s leading location-based social mobile app, similar to Foursquare. The campaign offered SPG members opportunities to earn bonus Starpoints by checking in via Jiepang with a confirmed reservation at more than 200 Starwood hotels and resorts across Asia Pacific. Also, those who checked in and synchronized at least two of their different social networks unlocked a virtual badge from one of Starwood’s nine brands. Collecting badges led to more rewards, including the chance to win free weekend stays and exclusive getaways at various Starwood hotels and resorts in Asia Pacific.

“The Jiepang campaign attracted more than 8,000 participants with over 27,000 badges unlocked,” added Qian. “While we only asked participants to check-in via Jiepang, our guests went beyond expectations and uploaded nearly 3000 photos with their check-ins – something we did not ask them to do. This user-generated content demonstrates how engaged our guests are as they travel and stay with Starwood.”

The SPG app, currently available for free download in both English and Chinese from the Apple App Store, is the latest development in SPG’s evolution into a hyper-personalized guest services platform.  For more information, please visit www.spg.com/iphoneapp.

Starwood Hotels currently manages two luxury hotels in Maldives, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa and W Retreat & Spa Maldives.

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