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MCLEAN, VA—It’s been all hands on deck for the past several years as Hilton Worldwide focused on getting its brands exported and established in different parts of the world.
Now, the company is turning its attention to the many independent hotels that could benefit from Hilton’s sales and marketing engine.
Last month, company president and CEO Chris Nassetta announced that Hilton Worldwide would launch Curio—A Collection by Hilton. Later this year, the company will launch a lifestyle brand. Both initiatives are aimed at bringing independent hotels under the Hilton umbrella.
“We’ve been asked by a lot of our owners to do this,” Jim Holthouser, executive vice president global brands for Hilton Worldwide told CLN. “A lot of them have independent hotels.”
Created for travellers who seek local discovery and authentic experiences, Curio will be a carefully selected, global collection of distinctive four to five star hotels.
“Were looking for assets in the upper upscale tier who want to stay independent, keep their own identity and personalties and be as unique as they want,” said Holthouser.
“They can use HHonors, sales and our online resources to power independent hotels,” he said. “They can access our supply management arm—Hilton can get soap and cleaning supplies with our 4,100 hotels a lot cheaper than one stand-alone property.” Hilton gets better rates from OTAs as well.
“For us, it’s a new stream of revenue. These hotels have very faithful followers. Once they get signed on with HHonors, when they’re not staying at their one favourite independent hotel, they can take advantage of Hamptons, Homewoods and DoubleTrees. This can really help us from a customer standpoint.”
Holthouser noted that Hilton has sized the market carefully—in North America and the larger European cities, they have identified 1,500 hotels that are unaffiliated and could fall into the Curio criteria.
In Canada, based on STR data, there are more than 1,200 properties, with about 60 that could fit within Curio Collection’s parameters.
Vancouver and San Francisco are two of the markets Hilton is looking at for Curio Collection properties.
“They are high barrier-to-entry markets. It’s hard to get newly built hotels, though there can be the occasional DoubleTree or Hilton conversion.
“All of a sudden, [independents can] affiliate with other good quality hotels—we see it as helping us get into very high-barrier urban and resort areas in a non-traditional way,” Holthouser said.
Toronto and Montreal are also on Hilton’s radar for Curio Collection properties.
Specifically, Hilton is looking for established, well-regarded, well-run assets. In most cases the properties would be franchisee run and managed, although on occasion Hilton would manage the property.
Holthouser says there has been a lot of interest in the Middle East, and he sees Curio as a real global brand.
“In North America, one third of the hotels are still independent; in Europe it’s closer to 60 per cent; and in Asia 50 per cent of the hotels are unbranded.
“There are a lot of really cool assets and they want to be part of us. I can’t wait to make them available, especially to HHonors customers.”
While Hilton hasn’t set any target numbers, and will grow the brand based on interest and demand, Holthouser said it would realistically grow to a couple hundred hotels over the next five to ten years.
What makes Curio different
Curio will be much tighter and more consistent than other soft brands, Holthouser said. “Marriott is a formidable competitor, but Autograph is a hodgepodge of boutique and luxury hotels—from 75 rooms to huge. It’s a collection of many things.”
The Curio Collection will consist of urban and resort properties with more than 200 keys in the upper upscale segment.
“If the property is smaller, boutique or edgier, it will fit with our lifestyle brand.
“The customer will have a much better understanding of what they are getting—it will be much better defined.
“The brands will stay in their own swim lanes—they will be physically different but will have common denominators—the amenities of a certain brand.”
Hilton also announced the first hotels to join the new brand.
Letters of intent have been signed for the following properties: SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino; The Sam Houston Hotel in Houston, Texas; Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City, S.D.; The Franklin Hotel in Chapel Hill, N.C.; and a soon to be named hotel development in downtown Portland, Ore.