Companies

Hilton to bring Waldorf Astoria, Conrad brands to India

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on September 13, 2013

The Hilton Hotel in Chennai. Photo: S.S.Kumar   -  The Hindu

Guy Hutchinson

Hilton Hotels, which has many properties in the pipeline for India, is bullish on the growth potential of its mid-market and luxury brands. It is also keen to tap into tier 2 markets. The company, which has already signed up properties for its luxury brand, Conrad, is also looking at introducing its ‘iconic’ brand Waldorf Astoria in India.

Talking about the company’s expansion plans, Guy Hutchinson, Vice-President, Operations - India, Hilton Worldwide, said, “ We are on an equal footing with our competitors both from the perspective of the number of hotels trading and the number of hotels that are actually going to come up in the next one or two years. By the end of this year, we expect 17 hotels to be trading and we have the second largest pipeline of hotels in the Asia Pacific region with 21 hotels in various stages of construction.”

Hutchinson, who was posted in China, moved to India just a couple of months ago.

There have been times when hospitality chains have announced a large pipeline of hotels but faced delays.

But, a confident Hutchinson said, “For us, it’s all about measured growth and there is a high degree of certainty that the hotels will be up and running.”

He said the company had also been significantly investing in the corporate infrastructure team in India.

Mid-market range

Asked about the growing mid-market opportunity, he said, “There are multiple opportunities across multiple brands and might have a different pace attached to it. Mid-market brands are designed in a manner that they can be scaled up faster. But there are equal opportunities across all our brands, whether it’s Doubletree, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, and even Conrad. We have signed two properties in Bangalore and Mumbai which will be run under our luxury brand, Conrad. We are interested in growing all our brands.”

Admitting that the hotel industry in the country has been witnessing challenging times with oversupply in a number of markets as well as little growth in average room rates, Hutchinson said “Performance of hotels in the five key cities has been under pressure for some time. In the short term, there are some challenges but demand has been growing. Some of the challenges are due to the development of hotels and financing. That is why we are focused on measured growth. We are happy with our expansion.”

Also, the global loyalty programme is proving to be a big advantage for domestic players. “Nearly 51 per cent of all stays across our properties in India are from members of our loyalty programme. Indian consumers get benefits of our Hilton Honours programmes not only when they travel within India but outside, too,” said Hutchinson. Last year, Hilton saw nearly 56 per cent growth in new members of its loyalty programme in India.

Asset-light strategy

Asked if the company was looking at expansion through rebranding existing hotels or investing in a joint venture, Hutchinson said the company was open to opportunities but investing was highly unlikely as Hilton was focused on an asset-light strategy. Even Indian players are moving to asset-light strategy, especially to expand their mid-market brands.

>meenakshi.v@thehindu.co.in

Published on May 13, 2013

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