Nine brands and counting…

A look at why Hilton considers itself as the "number one" hotel group in the world.
Nine brands and counting…
By Administrator
Wed 15 Aug 2007 01:01 PM

Hilton is one of the most established international hotel names with a strong brand and a reputation for luxury and style.

But as the Hilton group has expanded, encompassing more brands and properties in locations across the globe - with many more to come - some industry professionals, including former Hilton employees, have argued that the Hilton brand has "lost its way".

It’s always very easy to beat on the best. Hilton is and continues to be number one.

"Hilton has a brand and it doesn't know what it is," former Hilton employee Andrew Love, now deputy chairman of The Ritz London told ATN during a recent visit to Dubai.

"With Hilton International you used to know what you were getting, and they had such a strong brand, but now they have got it wrong."

Hilton's critics claim the group's nine brands - Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations, Homewood Suites and The Waldorf=Astoria Collection, not to mention its products, which include Hilton Worldwide Resorts - have caused confusion in the market.

Another former Hilton employee, Daniel Hajjar, who recently left the Rotana group to launch his own hospitality company, conceded that most hotel industry professionals were bemused by Hilton's brand strategy.

"I am not surprised if the public is confused too. What is a Doubletree? Nobody knows; then they see the Hilton name. But it is not a Hilton, it is a sub-brand," he said.

"One or two brands [is ok], but when you get to nine or 10 it gets really confusing."

And if hoteliers are confused, it's not unreasonable to assume that the travel trade, including travel agents and tour operators, are baffled too.

ATN therefore asked Hilton Hotels' recently appointed president - Middle East & Africa, Jean-Paul Herzog, to explain each brand and to set the record straight, once and for all.

The Hilton brand has been accused of "losing its way" by fellow hoteliers, as well as former Hilton employees. What is your response to these claims?

It's always very easy to beat on the best. Hilton is and continues to be number one.

I think it is a spurious comment that these people make. Many credible surveys always put Hilton at the top. As a brand there is a lot of history attached to Hilton, as well as glamour. This is not easily undone. There have been massive changes, but I would not put those down to Hilton, rather to the industry, and Hilton - as well as every other hotel group - went along with those changes and embraced them.

But what about the consistency of the Hilton brand itself - some Hiltons feel like a Hilton, and others don't?

A 20-year-old hotel and a new hotel will be different. What we are doing to create consistency is having certain recognisable icons at each of our hotels. We have just introduced our brand standards - applicable to service and physical elements - to make sure we achieve consistency at all Hilton properties.

We have also introduced new amenities from Crabtree & Evelyn, which have been rolled out at every property, with just a couple of exceptions due to problematic import restrictions. There are also icons like ‘Hilton Breakfast'; a breakfast service which has successful attributes.

We always serve fresh orange to every breakfast guest, for example. ‘Hilton Meetings' is another icon, which is currently being rejuvenated.

There is also On Cue, our new bespoke technology platform that will bring together our reservation systems and our databases and will ensure that when a guest checks in, we will have their profile and preferences on record. This is up-and-running in the US and will be rolled out over the next two years. The first market it will be applied to in this region is Egypt - in Q2 2008. This is a real point of differentiation for us and will be used across all of our brands.

Hilton’s Middle East development pipeline

Egypt:Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa (Q1 2008)

Jordan:Hilton Amman - Jordan Gate (Q1 2009); Hilton Tala Bay Aqaba (Q2 2009)

Kuwait:Hilton Olympia Kuwait (Q4 2008)

Lebanon:Hilton Beirut (late 2007)

Qatar:Hilton Doha (mid-2008)

UAE:Hilton Jumeirah Beach Residence (November 2007); Hilton Dubai Beach Club (August 2008); Conrad Dubai (December 2009); Conrad Abu Dhabi (Q4 2009)

Conrad and Waldorf=Astoria are both categorised as Hilton's luxury products, so what differentiates each brand?

The Waldorf=Astoria brand is more traditional and there is an historical element. The collection includes properties of architectural significance, whereas the Conrad brand is more contemporary. We are re-branding our Hilton property in the Maldives as a Conrad and of course, we now have the Qasr Al Sharq in Jeddah, which is part of the Waldorf=Astoria Collection.

The overlap markets of the two brands need to be redefined in different markets.

The Hilton and DoubleTree brands are also very similar. What are the key differences between them?

In terms of F&B and product, they are very much the same. The difference is that Hilton is traditional, whereas DoubleTree is more modern and contemporary. You have to see this in a regional context. If you were in the US you would know the difference between a DoubleTree and a Hilton.

The overlap markets of the two brands need to be redefined in different markets.

If we were to take DoubleTree to Saudi Arabia for example, where people expect Hiltons to have large ballrooms and meeting spaces, we would build a DoubleTree without a large ballroom and fewer meeting rooms. It would be about product not quality; it's wrong to make a quality judgement.

DoubleTrees in this region would probably have fewer amenities and there would be a rate difference. Also, whereas Hiltons tend to be located in city centres, the DoubleTrees might occupy a space on the outskirts. They are targeted at business travellers looking for convenience.

It's also important to note that some DoubleTrees might become Hiltons and vice versa - it's possible for brands to swap. A property's physical attributes might either demand an upgrade or an adaptation to another brand to ensure we achieve brand consistency.

Why do only some of your brands have Hilton in the title?

Those brands with Hilton included in the title are the key brands we are looking to roll out. Hampton by Hilton (budget hotel chain) is the fastest growing chain in the US and is about to roll out internationally - first in the UK, India and China. Eventually all of the brands will have Hilton in the title.

The other key brands we are focusing on (in terms of expansion) are DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn. We will roll out Conrad and Waldorf=Astoria properties on an opportunistic basis as they are more expensive to operate.

What sets Hilton apart from other hotel groups?

We have nine brands to play with and we have a strong name in the hotel business. We are doing our utmost to keep it that way. We are pioneers in this region having opened the Nile Hilton some 50 years ago. We were also the first international hotel chain in the UAE with our property in Al Ain.

The Hilton family explainedThe Waldorf=Astoria Collection:full service "super luxury hotels and resorts". Criteria for designation of this brand includes architectural significance, unique décor and original artwork, historic or landmark status and a reputation for product and service excellence.
Five hotels = 3813 rooms. Competitors: Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Rocco Forte.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts:full service hotels and resorts positioned as the "most global luxury brand within the Hilton family, combining prestigious heritage with contemporary attitude.
15 hotels = 5151 rooms. Competitors: Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Park Hyatt.

Hilton:full service hotels, resorts and airport properties and "the pioneering innovator in the upscale, full-service hospitality segment".
502 hotels = 173,906 rooms. Competitors: Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt, InterContinental.

Doubletree by Hilton:"distinctively designed informal upscale hotels" targeting corporate or business travellers looking for convenience.
173 hotels = 44,951 rooms. Competitors: Marriott, Westin, Renaissance, Hyatt and Sheraton.

Embasssy Suites & Hotels:upscale all-suite hotels comprising two-bedroom suites with services including complimentary breakfast.
185 hotels = 45,290 rooms. Competitors: Hyatt, Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Westin, Wyndham.

Homewood Suites - Hilton:upscale extended stay all-suite hotels. "Provides all of the comforts, convenience and privacy of a home for the price of a traditional hotel room".
196 hotels = 21,571 rooms. Competitors: Residence Inn by Marriott, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

Hilton Garden Inn:targeting mid-market travellers. 309 hotels = 42,745 rooms. Competitors Holiday Inn, Four Points by Sheraton and Courtyard by Marriott.

Hampton by Hilton:economy/budget brand that offers 100% satisfaction guarantee. 1409 hotels = 139,946 rooms. Competitors: Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn, Fairfield Inn and Travelodge.

Hilton Grand Vacations Club:vacation ownership resorts. 33 hotels = 3774 rooms. Competitors: Marriott Vacation Club, Starwood Vacation Ownership and Fairfield Resorts.

Hilton Worldwide Resorts(a Hilton product, rather than a brand): upscale resorts in "exotic places". Comprises 18 resorts in the US and 38 internationally, including two Conrad resorts.

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