You know you live in a trendsetting city when a W Hotel touches down near you. And if the recent launch of W Istanbul is anything to go by, the UAE is to experience a completely new level of luxury, when the fastest growing hotel brand arrives in Dubai later on this year.
W Hotels Worldwide made its debut in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region earlier this month by opening its first hotel in Turkey's main metropolitan city.
Owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc, one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world – which also operates St Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Méridien, Aloft and Element Hotels – W Istanbul stands out from the pack, because it is the first hotel brand with the personality of an independent hotel, but with the first-class service and amenities found in leading luxury hotels. W Istanbul brings with it a new meaning to customer service, it says.
"With W, the hotel sets a new standard of luxury for the customer," Roeland Vos, President, Starwood Hotels and Resorts EMEA, tells Emirates Business. "And while individuals are used to a luxury brand providing one type of service, W breaks away from the stereotype completely, and goes into a new level."
This new level is W's Whatever/Whenever concierge service, which allows guests to order whatever they want – from running shoes to a private jet – whenever they want it.
You could say this approach makes them the Harrods of the hotel world, although Vos claims to be "better" than the London department store, which is known for selling everything from chocolate to live elephants.
"The great thing about Whatever/Whenever is that we provide whatever the customer wants whenever they need it. It could be a small, simple thing or it could be really unique. The service aspect is what makes it different," says Vos. "Examples of services we provide include flight tickets, access to a theatre show where nobody can get in, or tickets to a football match."
He also believes their approach to customer service is the key to what encourages customers to return time and time again. "In other parts of the world, W has proven to be extremely successful, and once people are connected to the brand, they always choose us first."
The concept has certainly proved popular since its inception in December 1998 with W New York.
Ten years later, and Starwoods – which currently operates approximately 850 properties in more than 95 countries – runs 22 W properties in the world's most vibrant cities, including San Diego, New Orleans, Mexico City and Montreal.
With the launch of the first W in the EMEA, Starwoods will continue to increase the brand's portfolio, aiming for 12 openings in the region in the next few years. Launches happening in the coming months include Milan, Doha and, of course, Dubai.
"Over the next two-and-a-half years, we are going to open 11 more W hotels, which is absolutely incredible, and all of them are going to be spectacular. All of them are going to be different, and all of them are going to breathe what that city has to offer," Vos says. "With Dubai, we have confirmed deals for Dubai Festival City and The Palm Jumeirah."
W Dubai Festival City, which is being developed by Al Futtaim Group, and scheduled to open in late 2008, will be at the heart of Dubai Festival City's Marsa Al Khor development.
Designed by world-renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, who is also designing Abu Dhabi's Louvre museum, the hotel will consist of 350 rooms and be surrounded by a quay, a park and waterfront homes.
Scheduled to open in late 2009 is W Dubai: The Palm, located on the Crescent section of The Palm Jumeirah, which will be designed by Gensler, and developed by Al Sharq Investment.
To Vos, the Middle East is a particularly attractive market for the group. "The market is very interesting. I just came back from Dubai where we opened the Westin," he says, referring to the hotel near Dubai Marina.
"It is interesting because the amount generated for Dubai and Abu Dhabi is out of this world, especially for a company like ours. We have also just opened the Four Points on Sheikh Zayed Road, and we have signed a St Regis deal at the Saraya Islands, plus a Westin is going to be built on the new golf course in Abu Dhabi."
And he believes the country will continue to grow.
"Dubai has a lot to offer, and people are flying in from all over. Dubai is a hub. The results of Emirates [airlines] are fantastic. It's one of the airlines in the world that continues to grow at the pace it is going," Vos says.
"With us, as long as we can make our brands distinct, then we are going to do very well in the region."
The first W property opened to rave reviews in New York City on 49th Street and Lexington Avenue in December 1998. The 720-room hotel draws its inspiration from natural elements: earth, wind, fire and water. A master team was assembled to create the hotel, including architect and designer David Rockwell and nightlife impresario Rande Gerber.
It is home to the critically acclaimed Heartbeat restaurant.
Another well-known W is W Los Angeles–Westwood, which opened in April 2000.
The 258-room all-suite hotel has seven banquet rooms, which have become the most sought-after party facilities for Hollywood premieres and after-parties.
However, the hotel's hottest facility has to be Bliss, which features a retail beauty boutique, three "movie-while-you-manicure" nail stations, 10 treatment rooms and men's and women's lounges.