Hilton has opened its first mid-market Garden Inn hotel in the UK, a 157-room property near London Luton airport. The Hilton Garden Inn Luton North is located within Butterfield Business Park, around three miles from the airport, and marks Hilton’s entrance into the mid-market hotel sector in the UK. The Hilton Garden Inn (HGI) brand follows the concept of “focussed or bundled services”, with its five key “brand pillars” being: Sleep Deep – all HGI properties feature the signature Garden Sleep System bed, a design originally used in hospitals to eliminate pressure points and which Hilton claims will deliver the equivalent of eight hours sleep on a traditional bed, in just six hours. Guests can adjust the firmness of the matress, which also includes a virgin wool top layer to help “regulate and maintain proper body temperature”. Work Smart – Mark Nogal, vice president brand performance and sales support described HGI as Hilton’s “technology brand”, with several business-friendly services on offer. Guests get complimentary wifi during their stay, and workspaces include an ergonomically-designed Herman Miller Mirra chair. The brand’s “Printer On” facility also allows guests to print directly from their laptop or Blackberry to printers in the 24-hour self-service business centre, again on a complimentary basis. The Luton North property also has ten meeting rooms, holding between 20 and 120 delegates theatre-style. Eat Well – HGI Rooms have an empty fridge which can be topped up with items from the hotel’s 24-hour Pavillion Pantry, including snacks which can be heated in the in-room microwaves (Luton North has a communal microwave kitchen on the 1st floor). In the case of Luton North the restaurant is open for hot breakfast and dinner (snacks are also available throughout the day in the lobby bar), and room service is available until 10pm. Stay Fit – HGI properties feature complimentary gyms with Precor fitness equipment (the Precor brand is being rolled out across the Hilton Family of Hotels), and guests can also request a Stay Fit Kit for use in-room. Treat Yourself – Many of the HGI hotels (although not Luton North) have swimming pools or spa baths, and rooms include 26-inch high-definition flatscreen TVs with in-room movies. HGI may be new to the UK, but it is well established in the US and Canada. There are several European locations including Stuttgart, Florence and Rome already open, with Costa Rica, India, Poland, Russia and Turkey all due to launch properties within the next twelve months. Commenting on the HGI brand, Nogal said: “Next week we will open our 400th Hilton Garden Inn property – in 1997 there were just four, which shows how far the brand has come in just over ten years. “There are 150 hotels in the pipeline, and we will open our first hotel in Russia (Perm) in a few weeks, with around 70 properties due to open in North America next year.” Hilton has yet to announce further Garden Inn properties in the UK and Ireland, but the group is looking to open between 15-20 properties in the next four to five years. Noble said there would be a focus on “suburban locations” similar to Luton North, although he added that “if city centre locations become available that make sense, we’ll take a look”. The introduction of the Garden Inn brand in the UK, as well as the Doubletree and Hampton by Hilton brands (see online news March 13) has been made possible by the purchase of Hilton International by the Hilton Corporation in the US, followed by the sale of the merged group to the Blackstone Group last year. There is no doubt Hilton will have its work cut out to make an impression on the UK’s crowded mid-market sector, and the brand will be counting on key services such as free wifi and access to the Hilton Hhonors programme to woo business travellers. For more information visit hiltongardeninn.co.uk.
Report by Mark Caswell