Hilton is clearly having a field day when it comes to its development
pipeline in Asia Pacific. Not only has it embarked on an aggressive
expansion strategy across the region, the hotel chain has also landed a
number of significant deals, including brand conversions, in the past
a development perspective, the region is "booming" for Hilton, said
executive vice president & regional president Asia Pacific Alan
Watts. "We are the fastest-growing hotel company in Asia: one in every
three hotels getting opened in China carries a Hilton flag and one in
every four hotels in Asia Pacific carries the Hilton flag."
In China, Hilton has over the course of the pandemic signed a deal
for over 1,000 Home2 Suites, an extended stay brand, and has also
renewed its contract with Plateno for 600 Hamptons, a focused service
brand, according to Watts.
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With travel back and rooms filling up again, where is Asia Pacific’s hospitality sector headed in 2023?
"The development and the macro environment of Asia
Pacific mean we've had a record year of signings," said Watts. "We
signed 247 hotels and opened 100 last year, which were new records for
both of those, and we will do the same this year to open another 100
Watts believes that the pandemic crisis has tilted the favour towards
major hotel companies like Hilton, whose chain machinery – including
huge loyalty programme and global marketing outreach – has helped to win
over more owners and developers in Asia Pacific to go with brands.
Singapore as a priority market
In the region, Singapore is where Hilton's growth ambitions have prominently played out in recent years.
The company took over Mandarin Orchard Singapore and transformed the
property into Hilton Singapore Orchard – also the brand's biggest in the
region – when it opened in January 2022.
recently, Hilton became the talk of the town again when it clinched the
deal to convert Regent Singapore (under IHG) into Conrad Singapore
Orchard. Set for a 1Q 2024 opening, the rebranded property under Hilton
will mark Conrad's second outpost in Singapore after Conrad Centennial
Regent Singapore's much-loved F&B outlets would be retained when it rebrands into Conrad Singapore Orchard.
But it won't be a case of Hilton simply flipping the brand and
changing the Regent sign to Conrad, Watts pointed out. Similar to Hilton
Singapore Orchard, which retained the iconic restaurant Chatterbox from
its predecessor, a similar treatment could be expected for the Regent
where an extensive room refurbishment has been earmarked.
Regent Singapore's much-loved F&B outlets would be brought over
to its Conrad reincarnation, said Watts, who revealed that the fate of
the dining outlets had been one of the most frequent questions he had
been asked about the deal.
"We will close 100% of the inventory and renovate them before opening
the hotel as a Conrad, but we won't close all the F&B. Basilico,
Manhattan Bar and Summer Palace have been phenomenal, and we won't
change the winning formula of the F&B," said Watts.
Doubling down on the 'up and down' strategy
Looking ahead, what then are the opportunities for Hilton to grow in a prime hotel market like Singapore?
"In most markets we start with Hilton and then we move up or down. So
if you think of Singapore, Shanghai, or Tokyo as examples, it's the
core Hilton that we anchor our strategy on, and then given supply and
supply and demand characteristics we will go up with Conrad and
ultimately Waldorf Astoria for a market that can afford that price
Watts says Hilton would look to develop more properties towards the
other end of the market. "It's a pyramid – you would run down with
DoubleTree by Hiltons, which you might have two in a small market, three
Hilton Garden Inns and 10 Hamptons."
Given that Shanghai and Tokyo already have a Waldorf Astoria, and
others key cities like Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Osaka will soon
get one, Watts clearly believes there is room for Hilton to launch its
crème de la crème brand in Singapore.
would like to bring Waldorf Astoria to Singapore – it's a market that
deserves one," said Watts. "But we're not close to announcing one."
Only time would tell.