Hilton has major ambitions for Asia Pacific, going by the raft of new developments on the horizon, from debuting new brands to opening its biggest-ever property in the region.
Travel Weekly Asia speaks to Clarence Tan, Senior Vice President, Development, Asia Pacific at Hilton for the latest updates.
Hilton continues to grow and expand in the past year. What new opportunities have opened up for Hilton since the pandemic?
As one of the fastest-growing hospitality companies in Asia, we take a long-term view of our growth strategies for the region. Despite the uncertainties brought about by the global pandemic, our pace of signings remains strong which bears testament to the confidence our owners have in our resilient business model, strong commercial engine, and industry-leading brands. It has been encouraging as well to continue to open hotels across destinations in Asia.
Over the last 12 months alone, we signed landmark partnerships that will fuel our growth momentum for the coming years, including a multi-deal signing with Shimao Group under which we added four luxury hotels into our China pipeline: Waldorf Astoria Shenzhen, Conrad Shanghai, Conrad Wuhan and Conrad Zhuhai.
Waldorf Astoria Shenzhen is part of Hilton's multi-deal luxury signings with China's Shimao Group.
When they open, these hotels will mark the entry of Hilton’s iconic luxury brands, Waldorf Astoria and Conrad, in the four major Chinese cities. Conrad Shanghai will also take the spotlight as the largest Conrad hotel in Asia to open with more than 700 rooms.
In addition, we signed an exclusive management licence agreement with Country Garden, China’s largest residential property developer, to introduce and develop more than 1,000 Home2 Suites by Hilton properties across the Chinese Mainland. The first of these hotels will open this year.
The strength of our brands is another key pillar of our resilience during this period. According to the latest study by brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance, Hilton has recorded a staggering 35% growth in brand value, reaching US$10.8 billion, while retaining the top position on Brand Finance’s list of the top 50 hotel brands. The valuation is attributed to our reputation, track record, and customer recognition of our efforts in dealing with the pandemic and supporting frontline workers around the world.
As a result, hotel owners recognise Hilton as the partner of choice to bring better value to their assets. Conversions will be a driver of growth strategy led by our flagship brand Hilton Hotels & Resorts as well as DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn in key markets such as Thailand, where we announced this year our commitment to convert up to 2,000 rooms in 24 months.
With the gradual release of pent-up demand and easing of travel restrictions, we are optimistic that Hilton’s growth momentum will continue at a healthy pace in Asia Pacific.
Looking ahead, what are Hilton's expansion plans in the region? Which brands and markets will be prioritised?
We currently operate 469 hotels under 10 brands across 22 countries and territories in Asia Pacific. By the end of 2021, we will increase our portfolio in Asia Pacific to 12 brands with the debut of LXR Hotels & Resorts in Japan followed by the brand launch of Home2 Suites by Hilton in China.
Opening this fall, Roku Kyoto will be Hilton's first LXR Hotels & Resorts property in Japan.
The highly anticipated opening of Roku Kyoto, LXR Hotels & Resorts in September 2021 will add to the collection of truly profound travel experiences in some of the most alluring destinations in the world.
Through our partnership with Country Garden, Home2 Suites by Hilton will cater to the demand of a new generation of Chinese travellers. Following the growing spending power of consumers in China’s smaller cities, demand for quality travel and hospitality is expected to increase, creating opportunities for the entry of properties, such as Home2 Suites by Hilton.
In July 2021, we announced the launch of our largest Hilton hotel in Asia Pacific with the opening of the 1,080-room Hilton Singapore Orchard in January 2022 as the brand’s flagship presence in the country.
The 1,080-room Hilton Singapore Orchard will be Hilton's biggest in Asia when it opens in January 2022.
Which adaptations or trends from the pandemic do you think will become long-term changes?
From consumer research and guest feedback, we know that travellers will expect greater levels of transparency on cleanliness and hygiene. Whilst cleaning practices were historically carried out behind the scenes in the past, guests today find it reassuring to see the visibility of cleaning taking place around hotels as part of Hilton CleanStay — and this mindset is here to stay.
As consumer expectations evolve, so does Hilton’s approach to providing the best guest experience possible — and this means that future travellers will experience a digital transformation in hotels. Before even stepping foot on the property, guests who are quickly embracing and opting for a contactless experience have the ability to check-in and choose their rooms from the palm of their hand using the Hilton Honors app.
When a guest uses the Hilton Honors mobile app to check-in online, they can also request a Digital Key on their smartphone to access their hotel room, fitness centre, pool and other hotel areas requiring a key. After a long day of travel, Honors members can digitally check-in and swiftly bypass the Front Desk to head straight to their room, using Digital Key to unlock their door.
As the world returns to travel, we can expect the resumption of more in-person events, making the ability to deliver truly hybrid events even more critical. Now more than ever, event planners are looking for spaces that allow a combination of on-site and expanded on-screen attendees, as well as seeking expert support to help them execute the events.
We are delighted to share that currently 90% of our hotels in Asia Pacific are hybrid-ready, with enhanced meetings and events spaces available in their hotels to deliver customised meeting experiences to clients and partners.
Conrad Centennial Singapore is a prime example of one of our properties in Asia Pacific equipped with the technology to optimise the communication and connectivity experience within the hotel while providing easy access for virtual attendees.