How is the luxury portfolio of Hilton structured?
In my role as executive vice president and global head of Hilton’s Luxury & Lifestyle Group, I am responsible for the overall strategic development, brand innovation and leadership initiatives for the world’s fastest growing luxury hotel portfolio, including Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts. Additionally, I also oversee the continued growth of Hilton’s newest lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton, which launched in 2014.
Each of these brands offer a very distinct sense of luxury. Waldorf Astoria, for example, is a portfolio of 31 iconic properties that create a unique sense of place with a relentless commitment to personal service and culinary expertise in landmark locations around the world.
Conrad, on the other hand, has created a seamless connection between contemporary design, leading innovation and curated art to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit of the globally connected traveler.
And finally, our recently launched collection brand, LXR, offers enriching, unique experiences for guests that are personalized to each distinctive property. Because each LXR is reflective of the place it is in – combining the local culture with the highest standards of luxury – the collection allows for a deeper, more authentic connection to be formed between the traveler and the world they explore.
To what extent some of the Hilton brands can be considered ‘upscale’, would you consider any of the brand(s) as ‘affordable luxury’? – a term very often used in other luxury sectors such as fashion.
Our primary focus across our luxury portfolio is to deliver on what today’s luxury travelers want most: Unparalleled experiences, intuitive and personalized service, and timely but timeless environments that allow guests to make the most of their stay. We consider our lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton, ‘upper upscale’ as it focuses on delivering thoughtfully local experiences in unique neighborhoods.
For investors /developers, are there Hilton luxury brands available through franchising and/or management? – third-party long-term management agreements?
We offer a variety of agreement structures across all of our brands at Hilton.
Your company recently appointed a senior executive in charge with F&B across your luxury brands portfolio. Are there plans to integrate / group other operations, i.e. wellness?
We understand that our guests seek unforgettable experiences when they travel and culinary is certainly a big component of that. We are incredibly excited about Adam Crocini joining us to lead our F&B strategy for our luxury brands – he brings with him a wealth of global F&B experience that will make a significant impact on the various F&B offerings at our hotels. That said, we do have a fully integrated team that works across all key functions of our hotels, including wellness and other group operations.
Was the LXR brand created specifically for Al Habtoor City in Dubai? Do you have plans for expansion of LXR?
The LXR brand was developed based on customer and owner demand for luxury properties that retain their unique identity and prominence in the market, but are backed by Hilton’s expertise in delivering personalized experiences. We are honored to have Habtoor Palace as a founding member – and we are incredibly encouraged by the reactions we have received and look forward to the continued growth of the brand.
Which are the luxury brands in your portfolio with the highest number of confirmed new openings? How do you scale the future expansion?
We are incredibly excited about the interest in our luxury brands overall, with Waldorf Astoria, LXR and Conrad having more than 40 properties in the pipeline or in various stages of development. We anticipate that we will continue to expand at the same pace in the coming years, bringing unforgettable experience to our guests all over the world.
Are there any regions / areas which present exceptional opportunities for the development of your luxury brands?
While we look at all regions as having equal potential for growth, we are finding that there is significant interest for our luxury brands in Asia Pacific – where we currently have 20 properties in the pipeline across Waldorf Astoria and Conrad. This region is, of course, very dear to my heart as I have spent the last nine years in Singapore as area president, leading the Hilton business in the region.
Which do you consider the biggest disruptors your luxury brands are facing in the present context?
In this fast-paced digital age, technology is used to simplify and expedite many of the processes we use every day. While technology is extremely effective in this area, it is also proving to be a disruptor in the hospitality industry. It is critical for us to strike the balance between the use of technology to enhance the personalized service our guests come to expect and in-person interactions, which will remain critically important at our luxury hotels.
What is the competitive edge of Hilton’s luxury portfolio compared to other major international hotel groups?
I believe our competitive edge is our innovation, and long heritage of delivering luxury experiences. Throughout our nearly 100-year history, we have been the first hotel to offer room service, then 24-hour room service; the first hotel to provide private bathrooms for all guest-rooms; the first hotel to offer rooms to women traveling alone; and a lot more. More recently, our innovation has continued to make waves in the industry, as we were the first hotel to open an underwater residence – the MURAKA at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, while at the same time rolling out straight to room ‘digital key’ technology at scale, with now over 4,000 hotels around the world offering that service.
How has the profile of the ideal luxury hotel owner / investor (developer) changed in the past years? What are the changes you have had to implement? (if any)
In the past few years, we have noticed that our owners and investors are becoming interested in a more modern, personalised approach to luxury. We are challenging ourselves more than ever to deliver a product that is thoughtful and speaks to the luxury consumers’ changing preferences through incorporating new partnerships, redefined accommodations and uniquely different food & beverage offerings into our properties.
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