What's ahead for W's global development

BOGOTA, Colombia — With 25 hotels in its global pipeline, W Hotels Worldwide is looking to expand in some key markets around the world. While on location at the W Bogota last week, Anthony Ingham, global brand leader for W Hotels, said that the next “really big” opening would be the upcoming Amsterdam hotel. “We're very excited about the design of that hotel,” he said. “It's an evolution. I think it will point the direction of where W is going, from a design perspective, moving forward. It's also very heavily narrative-driven.” The design narrative for the W Amsterdam, he added, will be called Connected Exchange.

After that, the first W in the UAE will open in Dubai’s Al Habtoor City, currently slated to debut in November. A second W is slated to open on Jumeirah’s The Palm in 2017. “That's a very big deal as well, because Dubai is such a key market,” Ingham said. Beyond that, the team has Ws under construction in Abu Dhabi (slated to open in January 2018), Muscat (June 2017), Tel Aviv and Amman (both in September 2016). The Middle East—and the UAE in particular—will be “huge,” Ingham predicted. “The W Doha was the first W in the Middle East,” he recalled. “That's been there for a while and it's been incredibly successful. It's still the number-one hotel in Qatar.” By opening in an area with limited restaurant and social options, he added, the hotel has become a hangout for locals and and a “reference” for relaxing in the city. That success, Ingham added, has raised “a pretty strong brand awareness” in the Middle East, even though there is currently only a single W operating in the region. 

Ingham is also looking forward to W making its debut on the Palm, which he predicts will be focused predominantly on leisure rather than business. But Asia, he said, is another key market that is “really growing fast.” W is set to open a Retreat hotel in Goa, India next year, and has eight properties in the pipeline for China (three of which are slated to open on January 1, 2019).  “The one we're really excited about is Shanghai,” he said. The brand is slated to make its entrance in the southern city “It's an amazing building,” he said of the property. 

After making its debut in 1998 in New York, the brand has grown to 46 properties worldwide, but Ingham does not believe that W will become as pervasive as Sheraton or Westin. “The primary focus is making sure we grow carefully in the right locations with the right hotels,” he said. “We don't want to be a brand of 300 hotels...We're much more selective about where W can go, and it's a pretty specific market that we're targeting. It's a very affluent, internationally minded, design-loving, fashion-loving, music-loving traveler who is looking for this kind of environment.” With 46 hotels that are “full,” Ingham feels that there are enough customers to drive demand and increase supply. “But it's not a mass-market brand,” he insisted.