Hilton eyes steady growth in India, seeks to double hotels over 3 years

Over the next three years, Hilton aims to double the number of hotels in the country
American hospitality major Hilton, which has seen a couple of setbacks in its India expansion plans during the past decade, is now making room for a steady growth in the country. Its current portfolio of seventeen hotels is small compared to most peers but the company is confident that more hotel owners will be keen to associate themselves with the Hilton brand, the second biggest hotel chain globally after Marriott.

Hilton did not go for the management contract approach that some other companies took in the past. But now we see a great opportunity to accelerate our growth. Right now we have a limited presence with just seventeen hotels. But the potential of India excites us and all the other hotel brands. We believe India will emerge as the third biggest market for us after US and China,” Navjit Ahluwalia, country head at Hilton India told Business Standard.

Over the next three years, Hilton aims to double the number of hotels based on the projects that are in pipeline and for which contracts have been signed with the owners. “We want this number to be hundred. We want to expand at a much faster pace than we have been doing. But it will depend on different factors, some outside our control,” said Ahluwalia who joined Hilton early this year after a thirteen-year stint with Marriott.  

Hilton had stitched a marketing and co-branding partnership with Oberoi Hotels in 2003 but it was terminated in 2008, ten years before the stipulated period. The American firm then tied up with realty major DLF to build multiple hotels in India but it did not make much of a progress amidst the 2008 slowdown and the two parted ways in 2011. 

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Hilton has an ongoing association with South Indian real estate majors like Embassy and Prestige for hotels. The Embassy Group owns one Hilton managed hotel in Bengaluru and is building two big hotels of six hundred rooms each in the city.

Ahluwalia said the focus is to grow these partnerships for expansion in major cities and leisure destinations. “We have an attractive opportunity for investors who are building hotels here currently. Our marketing and distribution infrastructure is identical with other leading brands though we currently work with lesser number of hotels. Owners can expect a greater focus and attention from us,” he said.

Hilton has a portfolio of about fourteen brands globally but only five are now present in India. Ahluwalia said the company plans to bring its top luxury brand Waldorf Astoria to India besides two other brands- Tru and Curio. “We aim to launch these three brands here in next 12-18 months,” he said.

Besides getting more management contracts from owners whose hotels are under development, Hilton said it will look at opportunities where an existing owner wants to convert to another brand. “There are multiple conversion opportunities and we are working to convert some of them to a Hilton,” said Ahluwalia. It had converted the Le Royal Meridien in Mumbai into a Hilton few years ago.

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