Corporate push

Guy Epsom, regional director of sales and marketing, Hilton International, Arabian Peninsula, is optimistic about 2005

What is Hilton planning?
In the Arabian Peninsula, Hilton’s expansion plans include a new 46-suite palace property in Jeddah – Qasr Al Sharq – the first and only seven-star luxurious property of its kind in the Kingdom set to open in the third quarter 2005, as well as the spectacular 324-room new build Hilton Doha in 2007.

Specifically in Dubai, Hilton will also open its first Conrad property in the Gulf region. This is an agreement with the Abu Dhabi real estate company Private Property Management, where Hilton will operate and manage a luxurious 350-room property located on Sheikh Zayed Road. The property is scheduled to open in 2007.
Moreover, Abu Dhabi is aggressively developing its tourism infrastructure – the launch of their new airline, Etihad is serving European destinations at extremely low fares.  Hilton’s flagship hotel in the capital has just been completely refurbished and the new wing includes the popular Bice Italian restaurant. Meanwhile, Hilton has five more hotels opening in Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco over the next two years. On a more global scale, developments are planned in India, Asia Pacific, Australia, Europe, Americas and the Caribbean.

What’s the company’s strategy in the face of competition?
We will work on strengthening our corporate relationships, be it with Hilton HHonors members, our regional key accounts, as well as travel agents and tour operators from around the world. We are placing a tremendous focus on driving Hilton’s online business by increasing awareness and usage of the HICOM and, websites.
Another key area for us is maintaining and elevating our guest satisfaction levels, which are measured via Hilton’s Guest Satisfaction Tracking System (GSTS), through introducing best practice to improve our service and product offering. Our regional success can be measured through BDRC’s Middle East Business Guest Survey, which is an independent research survey whose results were calculated from over 500 in-depth interviews with business guests from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Egypt and Jordan. The survey demonstrated that Hilton has reinforced and steadily elevated its brand position, with Middle East business travellers this year voting Hilton International, as the “Leading Hotel Choice” across the region.

Is Hilton bullish about 2005? If yes, why?
We are very proud of how well our brand has performed in this year’s BDRC survey, which we take very seriously because it represents feedback from travel pros and our most valued customers. This goes to show that not only are we strengthening our presence in the region, but boosting our product and service offering. This reaffirms our stature as the leading hotel brand worldwide.
Regionally, Dubai is our most popular destination for the European market – and this is reflected in the consistently high occupancies of our two Dubai properties. Moreover, Salalah has grown to be the new destination of choice for many travellers from the Middle East, and becoming more and more popular within Europe. Tourism to Salalah in Oman has grown an astounding 80 per cent this year, much to the delight of our beautiful coastline Hilton Salalah Resort. Moreover, with Kuwait having just relaxed their visa regulations, we are confident that this will bring more business to our Hilton Kuwait Resort property.

What can guests look forward to?
These are truly exciting times for us – at Hilton, we pride ourselves on giving back a little of what life takes out. We want to be the first choice in terms of the whole guest experience, our service culture and product offering. Hilton guests can look forward to world class service levels, exciting restaurant and dining concepts, innovative meetings solutions and a host of creative offers and promotions.’’