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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hilton building Doubletree presence in Malaysia

The full-service brand can increase performance of underperforming hotels, says executive

Doubletree by Hilton Beijing in China, the first Doubletree in the Asia Pacific, is scheduled to open for the 2008 Olympics

The country’s growing affluence and attraction as an international tourist destination, especially among Middle Easterners, has caught the attention of Hilton Hotels Corp (HHC) that’s on a multibillion-dollar global expansion drive.

“We see great potential for resort destinations to continue to grow and we’re actively looking for opportunities to open Hilton and Doubletree hotels in places such as Langkawi, Penang and Kota Kinabalu, as well as in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca,” said HHC president for Asia Pacific Koos Klein.

“We expect rates to continue to grow and are very confident about the Malaysian hotel and resort markets.”

Klein was in KL recently to meet with potential hotel owners and investors on development opportunities through management and franchising as well as to explain its Doubletree upscale full-service brand.

“Malaysian hotels can benefit from the value-adds of Doubletree by Hilton because it’s a slightly smaller product than the Hilton product, and is very flexible in terms of ability to be used as a new-build brand or a conversion brand.

“Around 90 per cent of the Doubletree hotels in the United States have, in the past three years, been converted from existing branded hotels and their return on investment is clear.

“Once converted to a Doubletree, on average their ‘revenue per available room’ performance would improved by 27 per cent within 12 months of operation,” Klein said, adding that the product also has the potential to be located in central business districts, resort destinations, airports, office precincts or industrial parks.

“For instance, the Doubletree by Hilton Beijing is opening in downtown Beijing, 8km from Tiananmen Square, while Doubletree by Hilton Kunshan is opening in a part of China that sits between Shanghai and Suzhou, an industrial park.

“The Doubletree that’s opening in Thailand this year is located at the foot of Sri Racha Hills and on a golf course, with a leisure and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) appeal.”

On Doubletree’s other value-drivers, Klein said it has access to the Hilton sales and marketing engine that powers the performance of over 3,000 HHC hotels worldwide, as well as access to training programmes for hotel sales staff.

It also has access to the customer relationship management programme, Hilton HHonors, which has 21 million members in 230 countries.

“Our flexible pricing and modelling software enable us to set our pricing by day and length of stay, and to maximise revenue,” Klein explained.

HHC also engages in search word marketing and buys 155,000 words on search engines in 60 countries, and employs an online marketing specialist that optimises the presence of its hotels in global search engines.

For those interested in Doubletree’s managed or franchise aspects, its brand performance vice-president J. Michael Williams said the cost of converting to, or building a Doubletree hotel, depends on the hotel owner’s existing property or plans for a new property.

“We often see the Doubletree brand increasing the performance of underperforming hotels,” Williams said, adding that the company’s architects, designers and interior designers would assess an existing asset and advise on what is required for the conversion process.

The HHC brand, Klein said, caters to every price point – the value-conscious (via the Hampton brand) to the elegant and sophisticated (the Conrad) and the super wealthy (the Waldorf- Astoria Collection).

In Malaysia, the four Hilton hotels in KL, Petaling Jaya, Kuching and Batang Ai are “performing well, with revenue per available room growing 12 per cent and the average room rate increasing 14 per cent year-on- year”.

By New Straits Times (by Zoe Phoon)

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