Hilton Worldwide focuses growth in Asia-Pacific

11 Apr 2011

Hilton Worldwide expects its luxury brands – Waldorf Astoria and Conrad – to drive an aggressive expansion in the region, focusing in particular on the powerhouses of China and India.

In 2006, Hilton Hotels underwent significant restructuring and reorganisation projects, which brought the US Hilton Hotels arm and the Hilton International arm together under a new Hilton Worldwide umbrella. Since then, the group has aimed to increase development around the world in order to become a truly global hospitality group. Back in 2007, only 15 percent of the group’s development pipeline was comprised of destinations outside of America and today that has been increased to almost 50 percent.

Kenneth Svendsen, senior vice-president and global head of reservations for Hilton Worldwide, said: “Until a couple of years ago, the vast majority of the development of the Hilton Worldwide was within the Americas; we operated just like a traditional American company. Now, we are significantly more focused on being a global integrated company – four times as much of our expansion plans are outside of the Americas, which is a big shift in our approach.”

Currently in Asia-Pacific, there are 69 Hilton Worldwide properties across its brands and a pipeline of more than 130 properties. According to Philippe Garnier, vice-president of sales and Asia-Pacific marketing for Hilton Worldwide, the strong Asia-Pacific pipeline includes a Waldorf Astoria in Beijing and Hyderabad as well as a Conrad in Mumbai and Koh Samui.

Out of the entire pipeline, almost 60 properties will be concentrated on the Mainland alone in both big key cities and the second tier cities bringing the total number of properties in China to almost 85 up from 17 at present. Svendsen claims these additions and pace of growth will make China the hotel’s second largest market over the next few years. In India, the group will open 10 new hotels by 2012, including the newly signed Hilton New Delhi Mayur Vihar and the Doubletree by Hilton New Delhi Mayur Vihar, and almost 50 hotels by 2015 across its brands.

Furthermore, Hilton Worldwide will introduce its midscale Hampton brand to the region in 2012 to provide a wider variety and range for the business traveller.

Though the hotel group is late to jump on the Asia-Pacific bandwagon, the accelerated double-digit growth so familiar to Asian economies provides optimism and opportunity for Hilton Worldwide. Svendsen feels the late arrival will in fact provide an advantage for the firm, especially in China. He said: “While we were a little bit late in the game, the Chinese economy and consumer is changing so rapidly that we have a chance now to be very relevant. If we had 50 or 100 hotels in the market now that have been there for 20 years, they would be ageing assets. We have all kinds of opportunities in this region now for both inbound and outbound markets as more and more people are starting to travel in this part of the world.”

The thriving nature of the Asian economies also means that there is phenomenal demand for the group’s high-end luxury products and massive potential for those brands to be well-received. Garnier said: “We are opening this year a Conrad in Koh Samui, which just goes to show there is a demand even outside of China and India.” This fact is clearly reflected by the remarkable popularity of the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, which opened in December last year and is already on track to be the “flagship property of tomorrow,” says Svendsen, because “everybody absolutely loves it.”

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Alisha Haridasani

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