Hilton’s DoubleTree brand celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and the brand has come a long way through global expansion, conversions and franchises and innovation, according to SVP and Global Brand Head Shawn McAteer.
McLEAN, Virginia—In little more than a decade, DoubleTree has moved from a purely domestic brand to one located in 45 countries—soon to be 50.
Shawn McAteer, SVP and global brand head, said the growth has been possible because almost all locations are conversions and because there is a strong case to be made for both owners and consumers.
The brand celebrates its 50th anniversary as parent company Hilton celebrates its 100th this year. DoubleTree’s first property opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in May 1969, two months before the first man stepped foot on the moon.
In the past 10 years, growth of the DoubleTree brand has risen internationally with the addition of the “by Hilton” tagline. Today, about 50% of the brand’s pipeline is in Asia, but there is also a strong focus in Brazil. Doubletree recently signed a partnership deal with Atlantica, a major operator in Brazil.
McAteer said he sees a lot of opportunities in Brazil, mainly through conversions. However, DoubleTree is focusing not only on conversions, but also on franchising.
DoubleTree is 90% franchised in the U.S., but 95% managed by Hilton in Asia, with a 50-50 split in Europe/Middle East/Africa. However, the franchise business is growing strongly in EMEA and starting to take hold in Asia, meaning those percentages will be changing quickly, McAteer said. He said that’s generally true as markets mature.
He said the brand is open to welcoming new operators as long as they bring the right experience. Owners like the brand because it’s a good step up from owning a focused-service property, as DoubleTree is positioned below a full-service Hilton, he said.
Innovating the future
McAteer said DoubleTree occupies a strong niche as an affordable upscale hotel that is focused on innovation. A major initiative for the brand is the mandating of Hilton’s Five feet To Fitness in-room exercise product, he said.
This recently implemented brand standard requires three to five rooms being devoted to this product, which offers special flooring, equipment and videos geared to working out, including an exercise bike.
At the heart of the concept is the Fitness Kiosk, a touch screen display which offers equipment tutorials and guided workout routines. Hilton has created more than 200 bespoke fitness videos in categories that include cardio, cycling, endurance, strength, HIIT, yoga, stretch and recovery.
McAteer said the rooms command a premium rate $25 to $50 higher than standard rooms. He said for hotels that have tested the rooms, the investment was returned in 18 months. Any room can be retrofitted for the model, he said.
In addition, lobby spaces are being reimagined to feature more separate spaces for work, quiet and meetings. There will also be a more extensive food-and-beverage component for lobbies, which can make the spaces more lucrative profit centers, he said. As part of this, DoubleTree’s Made Market grab-and-go dining option allows guests to prepare their own fresh plates.
Hilton’s partnerships with a company that creates appliances for long-duration space flights and a company that provides commercial access to space allows for DoubleTree’s iconic chocolate chip cookie to be the first food baked in space—literally sending the brand into orbit.
McAteer said that Hilton has a history with space in that Hilton founder, Conrad Hilton, once said he would like to see a Hilton on the moon.