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Hilton to ride on Asia Pacific growth

Mar 11. 2019
Sean Wooden, Hilton’s vice president for brand management, Asia Pacific
Sean Wooden, Hilton’s vice president for brand management, Asia Pacific
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By The Nation

DoubleTree by Hilton is turning its focus to Asia Pacific as part of the company’s ambitious global development plans, Sean Wooden, Hilton’s vice president for brand management, Asia Pacific, said in an interview with The Nation’s Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn.

“GIVEN the largely positive travel and tourism outlook in Asia Pacific, I am optimistic about the overall potential for growth and expansion in the upscale hotel segment. As one of the region’s fastest-growing hospitality companies, we have 477 hotels in the pipeline and will open more than two hotels a week in 2019,” Wooden said. 

“An integral part of our growth is the expansion of the DoubleTree by Hilton brand – in fact, of all of Hilton’s portfolio of brands, DoubleTree by Hilton is the second-fastest growing in China, one of our main source markets, with 68 properties in the pipeline,” Wooden added. 

He said one of the key factors driving development in this segment is that Asia Pacific continues to be a critical engine of growth for the global economy, with overall per capita income growth of 5.4 per cent this year. 

Asia Pacific also leads the way in international tourist arrivals, buoyed by strong growth in intra-regional travel. The rise of an affluent Chinese middle class has also seen tourism emerge as a key source of spending, with outbound travel significantly contributing to the boom in the region.

“Of course, it is not enough to know that more people are travelling in the Asia Pacific; we must also know how, Wooden said. “We have a clear understanding of the distinct and varied preferences of modern travellers, such as their growing demand for leisure travel.” In Asia Pacific, travellers on average made 2.7 international leisure trips over the last two years. 

“We seek to offer an abundance of options for leisure and recreation, and accessibility to key attractions,” Wooden said. “With food tourism fast becoming a priority for millennial travellers, even more so than sightseeing and shopping, we also aim to offer guests opportunities to sample local cuisine and dine in authentic settings,” he added. 

Currently, there are almost 560 existing DoubleTree by Hilton properties in its global portfolio, spanning 45 countries. In Asia Pacific alone, there are 60 DoubleTree by Hilton hotels. 

He said 2019 marks an exciting year of growth for the DoubleTree by Hilton brand in the region. 

“As DoubleTree by Hilton celebrates 50 years of success, we continue to expand the brand’s footprint in Asia Pacific, with nearly half of our global pipeline of 200 hotels located in the region.”

He said this year alone, they will open 14 new DoubleTree by Hilton properties, across China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and, of course, Thailand.

“We are committed to innovating for the future … and look forward to bringing the DoubleTree brand of hospitality to more travellers throughout Asia Pacific and the rest of the world,” said Wooden.

He said Thailand has always been an important part of their Asia Pacific growth story. “We currently have nine properties across our portfolio in Thailand, including DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sukhumvit Bangkok, which marked the brand’s foray into the country. 

“… We continue to recognise the immense tourism potential that Thailand holds. The country has always been a hotspot for international travellers and between January to November last year, Thailand received more than 34 million visitors, up by 7.5 per cent over the same period in 2017. This trend is set to continue, with Thailand set to welcome a predicted 40 million tourists in 2019 and to experience at least 10 per cent growth in tourism revenue,” said Wooden. 

He said to meet the demand for upscale properties in Thailand, they will be opening two new DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in Bangkok and Phuket this year. 

Bangkok retained its top spot as the most visited city in 2018 for the third year running, attracting more than 20 million visitors. 

Meanwhile, Phuket is increasingly asserting its position as an all-inclusive destination. In the first four months of 2018, passenger arrivals in Phuket grew nearly 19 per cent, partly from the addition of more direct flights at their newly expanded international airport. 

“These locations will continue to take centre-stage and attract both international and domestic travellers who demand comfort and convenience,” said Wooden. “We are excited to introduce DoubleTree by Hilton Bangkok Ploenchit and DoubleTree by Hilton Phuket Banthai Resort, our first DoubleTree by Hilton property in Phuket.” Both are scheduled to open in the second half of the year.

“Moving forward, we will continue to identify key tourism destinations that could potentially welcome a new DoubleTree by Hilton – such as Pattaya, which is increasingly experiencing strong demand from the Thai domestic sector,” Wooden said. 

As one the world’s leading hospitality companies, Hilton has a portfolio of 17 world-class brands comprising more than 5,600 properties worldwide. 

Alongside DoubleTree by Hilton, their flagship Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand remains the entry point to most key destinations.

 “We currently have over 100 Hilton Hotels and Resorts properties across Asia Pacific, and 90 hotels – that’s another 28,900 rooms – in the pipeline,” Wooden said. This includes Hilton Goa, as well as Hilton Dili Palm Springs – the first international hotel brand to enter Timor Leste.

“Of course, a part of our expansion and growth story in Asia Pacific also includes introducing new brands and experiences to the region. We recently opened Canopy by Hilton Chengdu City Centre, marking the Canopy by Hilton brand’s first foray into Asia Pacific, bringing a groundbreaking lifestyle concept to the region that completely redefines the hospitality landscape,” Wooden said, adding: “Thoroughly researched, this lifestyle brand caters to guests’ growing demand for authenticity, personalisation and locally-inspired experiences.” 

Wooden said they currently have two more Canopy by Hilton properties in the pipeline – Canopy by Hilton Hangzhou Jinsha Lake set to open in the latter half of the year, and Canopy by Hilton Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang, opening in late 2021. In addition, they are also looking forward to adding Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi to their luxury portfolio. 

“In this Golden Age of Travel, we are seeing tremendous growth opportunities for all our brands. … We believe Asia Pacific presents a long runway for growth that will see sustained demand for exceptional experiences of all kinds,” he said. 

As Hilton celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, Wooden said they looked forward to the continued growth of all their distinct brands. 


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