How has 2007 fared for Hilton Hotels?
Hilton commanded a 20.4 per cent market share last year in the Middle East, the highest in the region, with a global high of 19.6 per cent.
Hilton was also ranked among the most improved upscale brands year on year, as part of its continued commitment to provide best in class product and service.
The corporation has 34 hotels in the Middle East, and another ten in Africa. Leveraging the mid-market and economy travel segment, Hilton is exploring opportunities in the Middle East for three of its Hilton family of brands: Doubletree by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton.
What are the company’s plans for 2008?
In the pipeline, in my lingo, would be our hotels that are signed and are under construction, but definitely signed. Of those we have 13 in the Middle East and Africa.
Some of them are the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach residence, and the Hilton Dubai Beach Club, both opening in 2008. The Conrad Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road will be ready by 2009.
In Abu Dhabi there is the Conrad Abu Dhabi on the Corniche, in RAK the second phase of the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa. Across the region we also have the Hilton Doha, the Hilton Olympia Kuwait, the Hilton Luxor resort & Spa which will reopen early next year. Jordan will see two new properties, the Hilton Amman – Jordan Gate, and the Hilton Tala Bay Aqaba, scheduled to open in 2009.
The Hilton Beirut which was scheduled to open later this year, is currently on hold and will depend on the situations in Lebanon.
In Africa, we have two signed properties: the Hilton Malabo in Equatorial Guinea and Hilton Kampala in Uganda, both scheduled to open in 2008.
Additionally, we are looking at another 20 properties which are under discussions at the moment, and if signed, will be operational in the next five years. We are looking to double our portfolio.
Are there plans to enter new markets?
In the Middle East and Africa, you are already seeing three brands –Hilton, Conrad and the Waldorf Astoria. As we roll out new ones, you will soon see the Hilton Garden Inn, maybe the Hampton and very likely the Doubletree. The Hampton is clearly a serviced economy brand. The Hilton Garden Inn is also mid-market. The key differentiator is not so much the level of market it caters to but the facilities that they offer. Garden Inn has a great emphasis on their food and beverage and meeting facilities. Doubletree is not very far away from a typical hotel, so it probably appeals to the lower-end of the upscale market.
What can guests look forward to in the New Year?
We will see a continuation in the growth of the regional travel market. The area is very strong and we play a very strong part in it. It might require us to makes changes to the product – like more family rooms, more connecting rooms. There is also a huge scope for short leisure trips.