April 24, 2024

How to Get to 1,000 Hotels – and Beyond

Hilton Hotels and Resorts has an ambitious goal of expanding its portfolio in the Asia Pacific region from 627 hotels to 1,000 by 2025.

The hotel company’s president for Asia Pacific, Alan Watts, expressed confidence in achieving this goal, citing the significant number of hotels already in the construction phase – about 500.

In fact, Watts said the goal would be revised for the cold of 2025: a goal of 1,000 operating hotels with an additional 500 under construction that year.

By comparison, in March this year, Marriott International announced the opening of its 1,000th hotel in the Asia-Pacific.

However, Watts said the real test for the hotel brand, which is said to be one of the fastest growing hotel companies in the Asia Pacific region, is to effectively manage the hotels and ensure their continued success.

Alan Watts, president of Asia Pacific, Hilton.

Social Media Marketing

As Hilton prepares for the opening, it recognizes the importance of effective marketing to drive business.

Watts highlighted the shift towards a personalized approach to marketing: “Billboards have evolved into short YouTube ads,” he said.

Social media platforms have played a critical role in expanding Hilton’s ecosystem and reaching a wider range of individuals. The company now relies on algorithm-based marketing techniques that ensure personalized experiences for each customer.

By leveraging data-driven insights, Hilton tailors its messaging to its audience’s language and channel preferences, communicating effectively through platforms such as WeChat in China and WhatsApp in India with members of Hilton Honors, its loyalty program.

Famous Endorsements

Watts also acknowledged the growing power of social media influencers and celebrity endorsers in the Asian market.

“These influencers not only provide validation and recommendations to their followers but also act as aspirational figures,” he said.

In India, influencers wield significant influence, with Bollywood stars and cricketers adding to the allure through their association with various brands.

Actress Anna Kendrick fronted Hilton’s revamped rewards program. Also, last year the hotel company released an ad with Paris Hilton, which she had never done before.

Pris Hilton is in the Hiton commercial.

Hilton launched a marketing campaign this year showcasing their connecting rooms feature, featuring Grammy Award winner Brandi Carlile.

This trend is evident as other major players in the industry, such as Qatar Airways and Accor, have roped in famous Bollywood actresses Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as brand ambassadors, respectively.

The Qatar Airways ad with Deepika Padukone.

Even online travel companies in India, such as MakeMyTrip, have brand campaigns featuring actors Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt.

With Hilton set to open doors to Waldorf Astoria in Jaipur, a celebrity wedding would be the perfect endorsement to kick off the opening.

The introduction of the Waldorf Astoria brand in Jaipur, India, furthers Hilton’s efforts to expand its presence in the region.

Hilton aims to tap into the luxury wedding and meeting markets, as well as luxury leisure travelers, with this new venture. The company’s luxury portfolio in Asia-Pacific is growing steadily, with more than 10 signings last year, including the entry of Waldorf Astoria in Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Franchise Model in Asia

Hilton’s expansion in Asia was further accelerated by its large-scale franchise model launched in 2021.

Franchising is on the rise in Asia, particularly single-unit franchising, and the region’s franchise laws and protections are evolving in response to this emerging trend.

Hilton is accepting franchising in various Asian countries, including Thailand, China, Japan, Korea, and India, as it aims to provide a diverse range of brands deployed in the region.

Drawing insights from the established franchise models in the US and Europe, Watts says Asia is poised to follow a similar path.

“At some point Asia will see more franchise hotels than managed, a diverse range of brands being deployed in the region, and an increase in third-party white label management companies acting on behalf of both brands and owners,” said Watts.

Loyalty Membership

Watts also emphasized the importance of Hilton’s direct booking channels, including websites, the mobile app, the global sales force, and contracted business.

These channels play a significant role in driving the majority of bookings for Hilton, he said.

Hilton has 7,000 hotels worldwide and Watts said heft enables the company to get lower commission costs in OTA partnerships compared to smaller independent hotels.

However, Hilton’s direct booking strategy does not rely solely on scale and cost efficiency. The hotel brand places huge value on its loyalty programme, Hilton Honors.

Marriott Bonvoy also noted earlier that its loyalty program is driving a new wave of growth in Asia.

Watts pointed out that Hilton already has 1.5 million Hilton Honors members in India, despite being one of the smallest hotel companies with 24 operating hotels, which could get a boost from the launch of the Waldorf Astoria in Jaipur.

This trend is observed across various markets, where business travelers, in particular, actively collect loyalty points to redeem for stays at luxurious properties.

Hilton currently has a partnership with American Express in the US and Japan, and the hotel brand plans to replicate this model with other fintech partnerships in various markets across Asia Pacific.

“In addition, we will continue to collaborate with airlines to expand the options available for points redemption,” says Watts.

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